Black and Hispanic patients are less likely to be given antiviral drugs such as Paxlovid to help battle a bout of COVID-19 than white patients are, a new government report shows.
In a study of more than 700,000 patients with COVID-19, researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Black patients were 36% less likely to be prescribed Paxlovid than white patients, while Hispanics were 30% less likely to get the drug.
“Multiple factors likely contributed to lower Paxlovid treatment among racial and ethnic minority groups,” says researcher Tegan Boehmer, acting lead of the CDC’s Healthy Community Design Initiative.
Paxlovid is an antiviral pill that can be taken to help keep high-risk patients from getting so sick that they need to be hospitalized.
The reasons likely include minority patients having less access to COVID-19 treatments, negative experiences with healthcare providers that erode trust, and less awareness of treatment options, Boehmer shares.
“It’s also possible that racism or unrecognized biases among health care providers could affect prescribing practices,” she adds.
Disparities in Paxlovid treatment for Black and Hispanic patients were generally greater among patients at higher risk for severe COVID, including those aged 50 and older and those with weakened immune systems, Boehmer notes. “It is critical that all eligible persons receive recommended treatments,” she stresses.
Quick and early access to effective COVID treatments is important to protect people at most risk for severe illness, Boehmer says, but racial and ethnic minority populations are receiving COVID treatments less often.
“Raising awareness of available COVID-19 treatments among patients and health care professionals can help