While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration now allows pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid, the antiviral medication to treat COVID-19 patients, many local pharmacies are not offering the service.

While most local pharmacies will fill prescriptions for Paxlovid from patients’ health care providers, pharmacists at most local pharmacies are not prescribing Paxlovid themselves.

Several pharmacists in the Santa Barbara area told Noozhawk that their stores are not yet providing Paxlovid without a prescription from a physician — mostly because of the guidelines requiring pharmacists to review liver and kidney function — but the service may be available in the future.

Local pharmacies that Noozhawk spoke with include CVS, Ralphs, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Vons.

Test-to-treat locations are still available in the county, providing COVID-19 testing, determining eligibility for the oral antiviral treatment, and prescribing treatment drugs including Paxlovid.

In early July, the FDA revised the Paxlovid antiviral drug’s emergency use authorization to allow pharmacists to directly prescribe it to patients, which could expand access to the treatment.

“Since Paxlovid must be taken within five days after symptoms begin, authorizing state-licensed pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid could expand access to timely treatment for some patients who are eligible to receive this drug for the treatment of COVID-19,” said Patrizia Cavazzoni, director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

Paxlovid is authorized to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in individuals age 12 or older who weigh at least 40 kilograms — about 88 pounds — with positive COVID-19 test results and who are at high risk for developing severe COVID-19.

Authorized patients who test positive for COVID-19 — with either a rapid antigen test or a PCR test — and would like to determine their eligibility for Paxlovid at locations where pharmacists are prescribing the drug would need to bring a list of all medications they are taking, including over-the-counter medications, and an electronic or printed health record less than 12 months old.

Health records also would need to show the patient’s most recent laboratory blood work so pharmacists can see any kidney or liver problems.

If there is not enough information to assess liver and kidney function or to assess for potential drug interactions — of if modification of medications would be required — pharmacists must refer patients to a physician, a physician assistant or an advanced practice registered nurse.

That requirement to review liver and kidney function in patients is one of the reasons some local pharmacies are not yet providing Paxlovid without a prescription from a physician. 

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has advice for getting COVID-19 treatment: 

» If you have symptoms, call your health care provider right away to ask about testing and if you qualify for COVID-19 treatments. 

» Stay home and isolate away from others to avoid making them sick. 

» If you don’t have a health care provider or don’t hear back from your provider within a few days, visit a test-to-treat location to get rapid testing and find out if treatments are right for you. 

» If you are uninsured, get free care at an OptumServe test-to-treat location. 

Test-to-treat locations in Santa Barbara County include two Public Health sites with Optum Serve — the Santa Maria Fairpark at 937 Thornburg St. in Santa Maria and the mini-bus at Direct Relief at 6100 Wallace Becknell Road in Santa Barbara.

Test-to-treat services are also available at the Sansum Clinic Urgent Care at 215 Pesetas Lane in Santa Barbara.

More information on Public Health test-to-treat locations can be found here, and other locations providing test-to-treat services or filling Paxlovid prescriptions can be found on this web-based test-to-treat locator.

Noozhawk staff writer Serena Guentz can be reached at sguentz@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.