ATHENS – Greece is turning to new antiviral drugs along with COVID-19 vaccines to try to beat back the pandemic that will enter a third year in March, including home deliveries to high-risk patients.
That’s also being done in a bid to ease pressure on the still overwhelmed public health sector and public hospitals and staff as private clinics were largely not used even as public hospital Intensive Care Units (ICUs) were near capacity.
The antivirals are prescribed in the early stages of the disease and designed to prevent a deterioration of health and stave off worsening conditions that could put the most susceptible in danger.
Some 384 applications were received in the first three days the drugs became available, said Kathimerini, with 359 quickly approved and the drugs delivered by couriers to patients.
Health officials emphasized that the drugs don’t replace the vaccines but are being used as a supplement in the ongoing fight against the Coronavirus and its contagious variants that can be deadly.“The availability of new treatments should not be a cause for complacency about vaccinations,” Deputy Health Minister Mina Gaga, a physician, told the newspaper.“The vaccine remains our main weapon in the fight against the pandemic,” she said, adding that “new antiviral drugs, if given in the first few days after diagnosis, can help older people with serious health problems who are at risk for serious illness.”
Greece currently has 5,700 doses of Molnupiravir antivirals by Merck (MSD) available and will receive an additional 25,000 doses as soon as the drug is approved by European regulators, which is expected within a month.
Eligible patients are those with a positive rapid or molecular test, while the application must be submitted within three days from the time of diagnosis, the paper reported.
The drug is mostly given to those over 65, the obese, transplant recipients, hemodialysis patients, cancer patients and people with chronic kidney or liver disease, diabetes, hypertension, respiratory disease or heart failure, among other serious conditions.