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How Will Biden’s ‘Test to Treat’ for COVID-19 Work?

President Biden announced a new COVID-19 strategy plan in his March 1 State of the Union address, including a “Test to Treat” initiative. As a part of this initiative, people will be able to get tested for COVID-19 at a pharmacy and receive free antiviral pills on the spot if they are positive.

Even though cases are dropping in the U.S., easier access to COVID-19 drugs is crucial. Right now, getting treatment can be a lengthy process since it requires a positive test and a prescription. Both of the antiviral pills authorized in the U.S.—Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir—should be taken within five days of symptom onset.

According to the White House official, “under this program, people can get tested at local pharmacies and community health centers and receive antiviral pills right on the spot. The Administration will be launching these one-stop shops this month, with hundreds of sites opening nationwide, including at pharmacy clinics at places like CVS, Walgreens, and Kroger.”

When Will the Test to Treat Program Start?

Don’t expect every corner drugstore to be a source of COVID treatment suddenly. At least for now, pharmacists cannot prescribe treatments for COVID-19.

“I’d refer you to each drug’s EUA (emergency use authorization) fact sheet which lists current prescriber authority…and does not currently include pharmacists,” Matt Blanchette, manager of retail communications for CVS Pharmacy, told Verywell via email. The fact sheets currently only authorize physicians, advance practice nurses, and physician assistants, to prescribe COVID-19 treatments.

Ilisa Bernstein, PharmD, JD, senior vice president of pharmacy practice and government affairs at the American Pharmacists Association, told Verywell that her organization is in discussions with the FDA to allow pharmacists to do the prescribing, too.

Test to Treat Could Be Your Fastest Route to Treatment 

Once it’s up and running, the White House Test to Treat program may be the fastest route to treatment.

“I think the priority is getting the pills in your hand as soon as possible,” Adalja said. “Even for those with primary care providers, Test to Treat may be more rapid than their [own doctor] prescribing antivirals.”

No primary care doctor and no Test to Treat clinic near you yet? Adalja recommends these options:

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