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Drugs effective against omicron variant for outpatients in short supply

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - As the omicron surge continues to impact Idaho and Wyoming, health care professionals are trying to figure out how to best treat those who are sick, but not sick enough to be in the hospital.

However, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says some of the best drugs effective against the omicron variant are in short supply

Four of the five therapeutics thought to be effective are allocated by the federal government, and distributed by the state explains Dr. Christine Hahn, the state epidemiologist.

"Evusheld is used for people who are at very high risk and it prevents them from getting sick with COVID. Sotrovimab is also a monoclonal antibody, but it's not long-acting. It's an excellent choice for people who are already sick with COVID," Hahn said.

Veklury, or Remdesivir, is effective against omicron, but not something the state distributes.

The state does distribute two other antivirals though; Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.

However, the federal government only sends a certain amount of each drug every couple of weeks, and it's never the same amount, explains Whitney Coolie, the pharmacy director at Mountain View and Idaho Falls Community Hospital.

That shortage is causing more stress.

"We have a really hard time being presented with more patients than we can take care of," Coolie said. "It's really, you know, really not why we got into health care. You know, we're in health care to take care of everyone who walks through the door. So when we have to stratify risk and do prioritizing, that is probably one of the hardest challenges we face in COVID. And it's not fun, but we want to make sure that we do take care of those at the highest risk for those morbidity and hospitalization. There are going to be people who just are not going to do well with COVID, and we want to try and help them with those limited resources that we have."

To help, doctors are being asked to decide who gets what treatment.

"We're asking a lot of the patients to go through their primary care providers because we're using the whole system to help us stratify," Coolie said. "If we were trying to test patients for COVID and stratify all of them, we wouldn't have the manpower to then administer. So we are not doing any of that. We are waiting for those to come in from our primary care doctors, from our emergency room doctors. They can help us find those patients that need these therapies or most therapies the most because it's just too much for one location to take."

Coolie also asks people to be patient.

"We're doing everything that we can," Coolie said. "And (I hope) that we're not seen as prohibiting treatment, because that's not what we do. we take care of people. Now I can give them the offers of everything we can do, but I can't change the fact that I don't have drugs."

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus Coverage

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Rachel Fabbi

Rachel Fabbi is a reporter, anchor and producer for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.

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