People at high risk benefit from new COVID-19 therapies

Adults at high risk of serious outcomes due to COVID-19 infection are benefitting from two new outpatient therapeutic options now available throughout 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.

“I have a rare form of sleep apnea and also had gallbladder surgery not long ago, so Island Health contacted me as they thought I would be a good candidate for this new therapy.”

“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, Health Minister.

“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.”

The therapies available 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 drugs 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.

“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.”

People who have COVID-19 symptoms and are either moderately or severely immunocompromised or are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated should seek testing. Testing by the third day of symptoms ensures the treatment window is not missed, as the treatments have to be given within five to seven days of symptom onset to be effective.

The Province has launched a new online assessment tool so that people can determine if they might benefit from one of the new anti-viral treatments. If you are unable to fill out the questionnaire online and need help to complete it over the phone, please call Service BC at 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319).

Island Health is also 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 these 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.

“However, any high risk individual who tests positive for COVID can check the Island Health COVID therapeutics website to see if they meet criteria, then complete the Province’s online assessment tool or call Service BC at 1-888-268-4319 to arrange further screening.

“These treatments are not a substitute for vaccination,” said Dr. 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.”