FLORENCE, SC (WBTW) – A Walgreens in Florence has completed more prescriptions for monoclonal antibodies and antiviral COVID-19 therapeutic treatments than any other state pharmacy, according to federal data.
Walgreens at 1500 S. Irby St. in Florence has completed at least 1,656 prescriptions for molnupiravir, an oral antiviral medicine. In second place comes a Walgreens in Anderson, who completed 1,128 prescriptions for molnupiravir and 340 for Paxlovid.
Not only did the Florence pharmacy administer the most prescriptions for treatment in the state, but Florence County pharmacies have completed the second-highest number of prescriptions for the treatments in South Carolina, according to healthdata.gov. First was Charleston County with 3,434 prescriptions, then Florence County with 2,818 and Anderson County with 2,774.
Florence County has about 137,000 inhabitants according to the census. It has seen more than 41,600 COVID-19 cases, according to the latest information from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
About 30,500 prescriptions for the treatments have been filled across the country.
McLeod Health, which has a facility in Florence, has administered more than 8,450 outpatient monoclonal antibody infusions across its COVID-19 system since treatments began receiving emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November 2020, according to the health organization.
“Our healthcare system truly embraced it and used it as a way to help society, save lives and keep people out of the hospital and preserve our hospital capacity,” said Jenna Swindler, a pharmacist and associate vice president of care transformation at McLeod Health.
Monoclonal antibody therapies, which have existed in one form or another since the 1970s, are proteins produced in a laboratory that mimic the body’s ability to fight viruses. The antibodies are targeted to the tip proteins of COVID-19 to prevent the virus from binding to and entering cells.
The treatments are targeted at the vulnerable community to prevent those infected with COVID-19 from having to be hospitalized.
It is the only outpatient treatment for people at risk of developing a serious case of the virus, according to Swindler. This population includes the elderly and immunocompromised.
“We feel like we were able to prevent a pretty large number of admissions in the first few hikes, especially,” she said.
This change, in turn, kept hospitalization rates under peak loads at a manageable level.
When the omicron variant began to increase, Swindler said patients knew about the treatments – and some had used them before, as they were infected with other variants.
“We saw a really big demand for monoclonal antibody infusions during the omicron rise,” she said.
That increase was also the first time that other treatment options became available. The oral treatment, Swindler said, is as effective as monoclonal antibody treatments, only instead of three-hour infusions at a facility, patients take the pills for five days.
And unlike receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, patients were more willing to pursue the treatments.
“People were looking for it as an option, which was a bit shocking for us, because of the hesitation with the vaccine, but there was very little hesitation in wanting to get an option for treatment once a patient had been infected,” she said.
About 62.5% of all eligible residents of South Carolina have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 53.9% have completed vaccination, according to DHEC.
Increased media coverage and success stories, she said, also led to more people asking for the treatments.
Specific pharmacies across the state were allocated by the government to meet prescriptions, according to Swindler. According to Florence Walgreen’s website, she said the closest opportunity to get a prescription fulfilled for the treatments was in Hartsville.
Across the country, the vast majority of prescriptions were filled out at Walgreen’s pharmacies.
“As we have done throughout the pandemic, Walgreens remains committed to providing our patients with the COVID-19 services and medicines they need, administering more than 60 million vaccines and 26 million tests, and recently distributing COVID -19 oral antiviral drugs to qualified individuals, including those in South Carolina, “a spokesman for the company told News13. “Our pharmacists and pharmacies have played a significant role in responding to COVID-19 and are ready to support the timely and accessible delivery of COVID-19 treatments to patients.”
A February study by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, highlights the need to offer treatments in rural areas that already have an uphill battle to provide adequate health facilities to a population that tends to be older and less healthy. than in urban areas. Poverty is perhaps the biggest struggle, and patients tend not to show up in a hospital until the effects become severe.
Telecommunications health is also difficult because many rural areas do not have access to high speed internet.
“With less funding and staffing, a sicker population and often a larger geographical area to provide services, rural health systems are often not equipped or staffed to deal with the extreme demands of a global pandemic,” the study reads.
Treatments are available at pharmacies in 33 of the state’s 46 counties. No pharmacies in Marion or Marlboro counties have completed the prescriptions according to federal data.
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