QUEBEC CITY -- Pharmacists in Quebec are now authorized to prescribe the antiviral drug Paxlovid to symptomatic patients with COVID-19 who are at risk of developing complications and who test positive for the virus.

Health Minister Christian Dubé, and the Minister responsible for professional law enforcement Danielle McCann, believe that access to a pharmacist's prescription from one of Quebec's 1,900 community pharmacies will provide proximity to care and encourage faster treatment initiation.

On March 17, the Quebec government announced that Paxlovid would be available in pharmacies after a prescription is obtained from a physician or a specialized nurse practitioner (NP).

On Friday, the authorities specified that a pharmacist can prescribe the medication but if the patient's condition deteriorates two days after the start of the treatment, the pharmacist will have to refer the patient to a physician or a nurse practitioner.

The oral antiviral was approved two and a half months ago by Health Canada. Paxlovid is intended to reduce the severity of symptoms of COVID-19 in people at risk of developing serious complications of this infection. It would also reduce the risk of being hospitalized or dying from the novel coronavirus.

Treatment with Paxlovid should be initiated within five days of the onset of symptoms. However, some patients can not use it due to drug interactions or contraindications.

The government authorities add that it is essential that people with a condition potentially relevant to the use of Paxlovid ensure that they are tested promptly for COVID-19 at the onset of symptoms. If they test positive, they should promptly consult a pharmacist, physician or specialized nurse practitioner.

- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on April 1, 2022