The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Lifesaving Covid Meds Made Unavailable

Apr 25, 2022

Promising treatments for Covid exist finally! Whether in pill form or via non-vaccine injection, these medicines can save lives. Any day now, the United States will reach a horrific milestone—officially 1 million deaths from Covid. The impact of so much death has been immense. The pandemic has created over 200,000 “Covid orphans.” These children have had their lives turned upside down by the loss to Covid of one or both of their parents or of their live-in caregiver.

Clearly, to prevent further suffering, available treatments for Covid should be free and accessible in every corner of the United States. It will come as no surprise that medications and treatments are NOT getting to where they are needed.

As public health protections disappear—such as mask requirements on public transportation—the need for these medications increases. In addition to vaccination, these drugs are needed to provide extra protections for vulnerable people who are immune compromised.

Paxlovid, an antiviral pill by Pfizer, reduces hospitalizations and death in high-risk patients. Merck’s Lagevrio pill looks promising as well.

In his State of the Union address in 2022, Biden announced a program called "Test To Treat.” Treatment pills were to be available in pharmacies to be dispensed immediately when someone tests positive. In reality, there are huge swaths of the U.S. that have zero pharmacies providing this service. How many clinics exist with both a pharmacy AND a doctor/nurse practitioner/physician assistant onsite to write the prescription?

On April 15, a reporter for Kaiser Health News decided to see how things stand where Biden lives. The reporter drove for three hours in Washington, D.C. to various CVS MinuteClinic locations, before he could finally find both a same-day testing appointment AND the Covid meds in stock!

One physician who provides this “Test To Treat” service to low income and uninsured people in San Francisco said her clinic is not even listed on the federal website because it is up to each state to provide that information to the federal government.

Since no new federal funding was provided for “Test to Treat,” if someone with symptoms manages to find that rare bird of a location that works, they must have very good health insurance coverage. Otherwise, they will pay out of their own pocket for this service.

Even those with health insurance are finding out their doctor does not feel educated enough to be comfortable prescribing Covid treatment. Because these new meds were approved for “emergency use,” it is against federal law for pharmaceutical companies to market them, or in other words, to provide the education to physicians that normally happens with a new medication. So, doses are sitting on shelves, collecting dust, because of lack of knowledge among doctors.

Another type of Covid treatment, monoclonal antibodies, is a preventative injection. The federal government has bought up a larger supply of these treatments for Covid than any other country in the world. They are to be administered free of charge. So where are they? Also largely sitting on shelves because doctors have not been widely educated about their use!

The federal government in Washington, D.C.—the chief centralized organization in the U.S.—would be uniquely positioned to organize the delivery of these lifesaving meds to every corner of the U.S. and to create an army of public health educators to get the word out. Yet the medications are not getting to where they are needed. Why?

Clearly the health of ordinary people is NOT a priority for the U.S. government nor for the corporations and the wealthy they serve. Outside the U.S., every other developed country has some type of federal public health agency. Two-plus years into the pandemic, the federal government refuses to organize a central healthcare policy. They prefer the profit-driven organized chaos that is the U.S. healthcare system. To have something better, the working class is going to have to take power and build it.