Antiviral treatments for COVID underused in nursing homes

July 24, 2023—Even though nursing home residents face high risk of severe infection or death from COVID-19, nursing homes have underused antiviral treatments, even after Paxlovid, a highly effective antiviral pill, became widely available, according to a new study co-authored by researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published on July 14, 2023, in JAMA. Michael Barnett, associate professor of health policy and management, and Ben Sommers, professor of health care economics, were among the co-authors.

Analyzing data reported to Medicare by nursing homes, the researchers found that, between May 2021 and December 2022, only 25% of residents infected with COVID-19 were prescribed an antiviral medication such as Paxlovid. Although this rate was higher than the rate among the general public, the researchers called it low given nursing home residents’ elevated risk of COVID-19 complications. They speculated that the low rate may have been due to clinicians’ unfamiliarity with antiviral treatments or patients’ fears of a coronavirus “rebound” after taking the medication, according to a July 14 Washington Post article. Nursing home industry officials quoted in the article said that facilities faced challenges both with adequate supply of the antivirals as well as clear guidance for clinicians.

Barnett told the Post, “The massive underuse of Paxlovid particularly in nursing homes almost certainly led to a lot of avoidable mortality.”

Read The Washington Post article: Paxlovid is underused at nursing homes, study says