Local Care Providers Unite to Ensure Quicker, Easier Access to COVID-19 Outpatient Treatments on the Suncoast

Health + Wellness

As COVID infections begin to rise on the Suncoast and throughout Florida, Sarasota Memorial Health Care System and its community partners have united to ensure those who need it have access to new antiviral treatments available in the community. The Sarasota County COVID Therapy Coalition formed this spring to make the process less confusing for local residents and care providers – and help prevent severe illness and hospitalization among the elderly and other high-risk individuals during this next phase of the pandemic.

"We wanted to break the cycle of panic and complacency that delays care,” said Manuel Gordillo, MD, medical director of SMH Infection Prevention and Control. “We now have effective outpatient treatments, but it’s important that people get prescriptions in a timely manner and start treatment within the first 5 days of symptoms. Knowing if patients qualify for any of these potentially lifesaving interventions and how to access them can be confusing, even for physicians."

The Sarasota County COVID Therapy Coalition has created a webpage (smh.com/treatcovid) with helpful links, treatment guidelines and physician referral information to help people assess their need, determine eligibility and locate available treatments. The coalition is now working to spread the word and ensure a comprehensive referral network for people who are low income, uninsured or do have a local doctor to assess their risks and provide the required prescription for treatment. While vaccination continues to provide the best protection against COVID-19, the oral anti-viral medication Paxlovid is highly effective to help reduce the risk of severe disease and hospitalization in eligible people, and is widely available from Walgreens and CVS pharmacies throughout the region. For higher risk patients who are unable to receive Paxlovid (e.g., due to a significant interaction with another medication), the monoclonal antibody Bebtelovimab is another possible option. There also is an antibody prevention therapy, Evusheld, available for those who are immunocompromised.

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