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S. Korea is slow on consuming COVID-19 pills

July 22, 2022 - 17:17 By Shim Woo-hyun
Pfizer’s Paxlovid pills (Getty Images-AFP-Yonhap)

South Korea is slow on consuming COVID-19 pills, yet the government earlier announced that it would secure additional pills in the future, government data showed Friday.

The government expects that its increased number of one-stop COVID-19 treatment centers -- where people can take virus tests, get in-person medical care services and receive antiviral drugs -- would increase accessibility to COVID-19 pills. However, the COVID-19 pill use was still low.

According to government data, the country still has pills left for 773,000 patients, of the total COVID-19 pills that the government has secured for 1.06 million patients.

Over the last week, when the new wave of COVID-19 spread rapidly, only 3,300 patients were able to take Pfizer’s Paxlovid pills, while some 600 patients got Merck’s Lagevrio pills.

The number of drug stores that provide the COVID-19 pills is apparently small as well, a local report criticized. There are only 900 drug stores across the nation that provide the pills, restricting accessibility to the pills, the report said.

Experts said that certain underlying medical conditions and pre-existing liver diseases also prevent patients from taking the pill developed by Pfizer. Possible side effects too make patients hesitate choosing the treatment.

In terms of Lagevrio, experts said that many people in the country are misperceiving the effectiveness of the pills for being low, making patients to choose other options than taking the pill.

Meanwhile, the government said it plans to purchase additional COVID-19 pills that can be prescribed to a total of 342,000 patients by the end of this year and additional pills for some 600,000 patients during the first half of 2023.