From Thursday (September 1), COVID-19 patients can buy prescription antiviral medicines from pharmacies, as authorities ease access to weapons against the virus.
“Health agencies are offering easier access to these medications while still guarding the safety of patients,” said Dr. Udom Kachintorn, chair of Thailand’s committee on public health reform.
Pharmacists will be able to fill prescriptions for Favipiravir, Molnupiravir, and Paxlovid. Pharmacies are required to purchase these drugs from importers certified by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and record all sales to customers. The records will be monitored by authorities just like steroid sales.
Licensed suppliers can sell antiviral medicines to hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in line with the regulations. Prices will not be controlled as the government believes market competition will ensure fairness and affordability.
Use with caution
FDA secretary-general Dr. Paisarn Dunkum said that although the Center for COVID-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) has permitted the public to purchase antiviral medicines from September 1, they should understand that not everybody requires them.
“You can only take them if they have been prescribed to you by a doctor,” Paisarn said. “So, if you don’t have a prescription, pharmacies will not sell antiviral medicines to you.”
Public Health Ministry permanent-secretary Dr Kiattibhoom Vongrachit added that antiviral medicines should not be stored in household medicine boxes as they have side effects and expiry dates.
“Like antibiotics, they should not be taken lightly or stocked,” he said.
The side effects of Favipiravir, for instance, include diarrhea, hyperuricemia (elevated uric acid), neutropenia (low white-blood-cell count), nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Molnupiravir, meanwhile, may cause dizziness, headache, hives, itching, skin rash, nausea, redness of the skin, and vomiting. Paxlovid can cause changes in taste, diarrhea, high blood pressure, or muscle pain.
The drugs come with other precautions as well. For instance, Molnupiravir cannot be used on patients under the age of 18.
Meanwhile, most people who contract COVID-19 can recover with just basic medicines for fever and decongestion.
Thai PBS World, August 30th 2022, https://www.thaipbsworld.com/new-weapons-and-precautions-as-controls-lifted-on-covid-magic-bullets/