RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — COVID-19 cases in North Carolina are on the rise, but demand for COVID-19 treatment at UNC Health is not.
That’s a concern to Dr. David Wohl, a professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at UNC-Chapel Hill.
“So if you don’t have insurance (or) if you don’t have a doctor, who’s gonna write that prescription for you,” Wohl said. “We don’t have good on-ramps for people. So, I really do worry that 90 percent or more of people who could benefit from these therapies are not getting them.”
For the week ending April 30, COVID-19 hospitalizations were up 45 percent from the week prior according to numbers from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.
Wohl said that while hospitalizations were up last week, the good news is there’s still a disconnect between cases and people getting sick enough to be on life support or sick enough to die.
People who are diagnosed with COVID-19 and have a high risk of getting severely sick, such as those who are older, overweight, or have underlying conditions, are eligible for treatments like monoclonal antibody injections or oral treatments like Paxlovid and Molnupiravir. Those treatments reduce one’s risk of hospitalization.
Wohl believes a significant barrier is that not enough people are aware treatments are available.
He said UNC Health is trying to educate providers as well that the treatments are out there for patients. He notes that unlike other prescriptions there are no TV commercials from drug companies for COVID-19 treatments.
“We’re not gonna see advertisements for ‘ask your doctor about Paxlovid,’ so we don’t have the buzz, the demand, that usually you see with marketing of medications,” Wohl said. “We have to do that on our own.”
North Carolina received 3,090 units of Paxlovid from the federal government this past week, according to numbers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
As for UNC’s allocation, Wohl said they are currently sitting on supply due to low demand. He said during the winter surge the hospital received weekly allocations.
Recently, there have been some reports of people’s symptoms returning and even testing positive again for COVID-19 after finishing the five days of Paxlovid. Wohl said it’s hard to understand what percentage of people this happens to.
“In most of the cases I’ve seen, it hasn’t led to someone really getting the same symptoms as full-blown as they have before, so we’ll have to see what really happens to these people and if you do need to give a second course,” Wohl said.
He said Paxlovid still works.
Wohl stresses that treatments are not a substitute for vaccination and boosters.