New COVID-19 therapeutic options available through Island Health

Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, provide an update on the COVID-19 pandemic in B.C. on April 26, 2021. || B.C. government photo
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Adults at high risk of serious outcomes due to COVID-19 infection are benefitting from two new outpatient therapeutic options, according to Island Health.

“Without this treatment I would probably be in the hospital on a ventilator fighting for my life,” said Chris Daw, a 52-year-old Paralympic athlete living in Victoria. Daw has a rare form of sleep apnea and recently underwent gallbladder surgery. He said Island Health contacted him because he is a good candidate for the new therapy.

“I went from feeling like I had the flu with a massive headache, lower back pain, a clogged ear and being super tired to feeling 90 per cent myself within three hours of the treatment,” said Daw. “I can’t believe how I bounced back so quickly. This treatment made such a difference.”

The new therapies include Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir), an oral antiviral drug that can be taken at home, and sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody administered by intravenous infusion in a clinic or hospital setting.

Both have been licensed for use by Health Canada and have been shown to be very effective at reducing the risk of progression to more severe disease requiring hospitalization, according to Island Health.

“By exploring the use of these new therapies, we’re helping high-risk people in our communities recover better, faster and with fewer symptoms,” said Adrian Dix, minister of health.

“It’s through these innovations we’re giving people their lives back, without the need for a lengthy hospital inpatient stay and complications that partner with a progression of the disease.”

People with COVID-19 symptoms who are moderately or severely immunocompromised or are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated should get tested, according to Island Health. Testing by the third day of symptoms ensures the treatment window is not missed, as the treatments must be given within five to seven days of symptom onset to be effective.

Island Health said it is actively reviewing lab data from COVID-positive patients who are considered vulnerable or immunocompromised and is contacting them directly to assess their eligibility for one of the therapies. 

“Paxlovid and sotrovimab treatments are not suitable for everyone and must be prescribed by a health-care provider who can assess interactions with other conditions or medications,” said Dr. Eric Partlow, an Island Health infectious disease physician who is leading the therapies.

People at high risk for serious COVID-19 outcomes can check the Island Health COVID-19 therapeutics website to see if they meet criteria. If they qualify, then they can complete the province’s online assessment tool or call Service BC at 1-888-268-4319 to arrange further screening, according to Island Health.

“These treatments are not a substitute for vaccination,” said Partlow. “The first line of defence against infection is still by getting vaccinated, but if you have received a clinically extremely vulnerable letter and you are experiencing COVID symptoms, ensure you get tested.”

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