In the comment section after my previous post, Garrett provided another nice example of how America’s doctors are making us sick:
My wife (early 30s) caught covid a few weeks ago. She noticed a scratchy throat on a Sunday night after we’d been out for dinner Friday night, and by that Tuesday she was bedridden with a fever nearing 103. For the next two days she couldn’t work or anything. I’d read about how paxlovid is a wonder-drug so I read up on the prescribing guidelines and saw that one of the risk factors is asthma.
She scheduled a telehealth visit and spoke with a provider that Thursday afternoon via videocall. The doctor basically told her that paxlovid is for people over 65 and she didn’t need it because she’d get over it in the next couple days, but that if she’s worried about her asthma she’d prescribe her a different inhaler. My wife was too exhausted to stand up for herself so I had to step in and insist for it.
I had the prescribing guidelines up on my phone but the doctor wouldn’t budge. I eventually said this is ridiculous, there’s no shortage of paxlovid, and sentencing my wife to another week of sickness was malpractice. My wife kicked me out of the room for that lol, so I walked the dog to cool off.
When I came back though my wife said she got the prescription. After I left the room the doctor said “I don’t think you need it but if your husband insists I’ll prescribe it.” She took the pills a few hours later and just like Scott she immediately felt better!
Yes, this case had a happy ending. But how many of us would have persevered as Garrett did?
What about the argument that there is a limited supply of Paxlovid and that it should be reserved for those most in need? Unless your name is Matt Yglesias, the elasticity of supply is probably much higher than you think. Recall how the vaccine companies produced far more doses than their supposed “capacity” allowed. The same is true of Paxlovid. This is from last November:
The efficacy data for Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 drug now look so appealing that the Big Pharma company is boosting manufacturing capacity even before an expected emergency use authorization from the FDA.
Pfizer now expects to make 80 million courses of COVID drug Paxlovid by the end of 2022, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., told CNBC during a Monday interview. The company previously said it plans to have capacity to make 50 million courses.
The revelation came after Merck reported the risk reduction in hospitalization and death from its Ridgeback Therapeutics-partnered COVID antiviral, molnupiravir, fell from 50% to 30% in the final analysis. The updated result fueled expectations of increased demand for Paxlovid, which has shown an 89% risk reduction in outpatients.
So as soon as its rival ran into problems, Pfizer miraculously discovered even more “capacity” than they had assumed.
In early November, Pfizer projected it could produce 50 million courses of the treatment in 2022; then, by late in the month, the company bumped that estimate up to 80 million. Monday, during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, CEO Albert Bourla, Ph.D., took it a big step further.
“We have confidence that we can make 120 million treatments this year,” Bourla said. “That’s 3.6 billion tablets. That’s a very big capacity. But it is doable.”
But why stop there?
But wait, there’s more. The company is working to add more capacity by the end of this year, because several countries have indicated an interest in stockpiling the treatment, Bourla said. Unlike vaccines, this is an option with Paxlovid because the pill has a shelf-life of three years.
“If those discussions progress, we will have to do more than 120 (million), so this is where we are aiming now,” Bourla said.
PS. Demand is also more elastic than you think. When I was young, my dad used to say that cigarette taxes won’t stop anyone from smoking, as the product is addictive. Much later in life, my mom told me that she had smoked when she was young, something I’d never known (and couldn’t even imagine.) I asked why she’d stopped. “When your father and I got married, we decided that we could only afford one smoker in the family.” Sadly, I was never able to confront my dad with this counterargument, as he died from emphysema at age 68. My mom just turned 96 on Tuesday.
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Author: Scott Sumner
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