174: Slow Uptake for COVID Therapies

Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s Public Health Commissioner, explains why providers may not be prescribing COVID-19 therapeutics; ASTHO publishes a new report to help public health leaders maximize the benefits of COVID-19 therapies; Latoya...

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Dr. Manisha Juthani, Connecticut’s Public Health Commissioner, explains why providers may not be prescribing COVID-19 therapeutics; ASTHO publishes a new report to help public health leaders maximize the benefits of COVID-19 therapies; Latoya Sahadeo, ASTHO’s Director of Leadership Development, says the organization is accepting applications for the second class of scholars in the Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health program; and there’s still time to register for ASTHO’s Public Health TechXpo starting tomorrow online.

ASTHO Brief: Maximizing the Benefit of COVID-19 Therapeutics: Considerations for State Public Health Officials

ASTHO Webpage: Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health

ASTHO Website: Public Health TechXpo

ASTHO News Release: Getting Ahead of the Next Pandemic, Leaders Convene to Identify Solutions to Transform U.S. Health Data

ASTHO TechXpo Sponsor: RTI International

ASTHO TechXpo Sponsor: Deloitte

ASTHO TechXpo Sponsor: Optum

ASTHO TechXpo Sponsor: RSM

ASTHO logo



This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Monday, May 9, 2022. I'm Robert Johnson.

Now, today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.


COVID-19 therapies have been available to treat patients for several months, but some pharmacies report having more pills than prescriptions to fill.

Dr. Manisha Juthani is an infectious disease specialist on leave from the Yale School of Medicine to serve as Connecticut's public health commissioner. We asked her about lagging uptake in today's morning conversation.

COVID-19 therapeutics are part of the pandemic response toolbox; but lately, there's a concern they're not being fully utilized. Is there a problem?


What we've seen is that physicians historically always have a little bit of hesitation whenever there's a new medication that comes on the market. And as providers are learning what the indications are for this medication, we have been trying to get people up to speed and develop that comfort so they know who's eligible and who can best benefit from these medications that are the first of its kind to be able to be given to outpatients—people who are not in the hospital.


So, it's a hesitance with a new prescription drug? How do we overcome that?


Part of what we're trying to do in Connecticut is educate the providers in our state who would be the frontline—so, whether it be primary care providers, urgent care providers, emergency room physicians—to help them develop the knowledge and fundamental foundational base upon which to be able to prescribe these medications and have that comfort, to know that it is something relatively safe and that people have been tolerating well.


Clearly, as the state health officials in your state, you're taking action; but is there more that could be done on the public health front nationally?


We have test-to-treat sites that we started in Connecticut, which were amplified by federal test-to-treat sites. And the federal government is also dispensing more of these medications to more pharmacies just as we as states are doing the same. So, it's a balance of having availability of the medication in the marketplace, and providers knowing that it's available and having the comfort to know that it is a relatively safe medication, because it's that combination of the two.

For many providers, if they think that there isn't enough medication, they're going to be hesitant to prescribe it—they're trying to do the right thing. On the flip side, there's also a hesitancy whenever there's a new medication. So, it's a combination of the two coming together to be able to let people have that comfort to prescribe it to the right target population.


In the end, do you think this is a temporary problem? That eventually providers will begin using these treatments more often?


I think we're getting there closer and closer. This type of medication—which is a protease inhibitor—people who are in the infectious disease world are used to prescribing this kind of medication for HIV. The difference here is that this is just a five-day regimen. It's not a long-term regimen that needs to be done for years on end. And I think as people develop that comfort and recognize it as something that is generally well-tolerated—maybe there are some medications that need to be stopped for a short period of time to prevent interactions. But again, it's only five days.  

And so, I think this is something that over time people will develop that comfort and will know that it is something that is in their arsenal, in their toolbox, to be able to help treat patients and prevent them from being admitted to the hospital.


What about pharmacies? Do they have a role in trying to increase uptake?


I think the biggest benefit that pharmacies can provide is having the availability of the medication. And so, for a provider, they don't have to go looking around to figure out which pharmacy their patient would have to go to.

Again, this medication is free. It's been purchased by the federal government. This is not something we have to worry about whether your insurance covers or not. So, it's really just about availability. If it's the type of thing where a patient and provider have to search far and wide and a larger radius from where the patient lives, that becomes more challenging.

So, what we're doing now—both through the state resources and through the federal resources—of having many more pharmacies enrolled and receiving this medication will go a long way to be able to provide access to patients.


ASTHO has a new blog article about COVID-19 therapeutics. Read more about maximizing the benefits of these new formulas using the link in the show notes.


Hard to believe it's been a year since ASTHO launched its inaugural class of public health professionals taking part in the Diverse Executives Leading in Public Health program. But the original 16 scholars are about to graduate, and that means it's time to find a new group of students.

ASTHO’s Latoya Sahadeo manages the program.


This program is quite unique in that in that nature that we are providing some key skills—so, key leadership skills, how to be an effective leader, crisis management, how to deal when something similar to COVID is exposed in our environment, and then how to manage people.

That's one of the things a lot of people don't have, that specific skill set. They want to lead and grow within their organizations, but they don't necessarily know what tools they need to actually get there.


ASTHO is accepting applications starting today. The deadline is May 31.


We need to know your leadership style, we'd like to know information about your leadership journey; so, you're showing us evidence of where you are right now as a mid- to senior-level leader, and where you want to go.


You can find out more about the program and if you're eligible to apply using the link in the show notes.


Finally, today, the Public Health TechXpo starts tomorrow. Leaders in public health and technology will gather online for two days to discuss and demonstrate the latest in the space.

You can be part of it, but you need to register to join in. If you have a.mil, .edu, or.gov email, there's no charge. You'll also be able to learn from Amazon Web Services, RTI, Deloitte, Optum, and RSM—the latest to join the Xpo sponsor lineup.

Save your seat now using the link in the show notes.


Before we go, we want to remind you to follow the show on your podcast app. And if you're on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn, we'd love a shout out.

That'll do it for today's newscast. We're back tomorrow morning with more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a great day.

Latoya Sahadeo MPH

Director, Leadership Development, ASTHO

Manisha Juthani MD

Commissioner, Connecticut Department of Public Health