The U.S. government is seeking to expand access to oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19 , such as Pfizer Inc. PFE.N’s Paxlovid, by doubling the number of locations where they are available, the White House.

Pharmacies participating in the federal antiviral treatment distribution program will be able to order the pills directly from the government starting this week.

Currently, pharmacies rely on states to obtain pills. The Government sends the treatments to selected pharmacies, as well as directly to states and community centers. Under the current system, treatments are available at about 20,000 locations.

The government expects to increase its direct distribution to more than 30,000 sites soon and reach 40,000 sites in the coming weeks, the White House said.

Paxlovid demand has been unexpectedly low due to complicated eligibility requirements, reduced COVID testing, and potential drug interactions.

Paxlovid was expected to be an important tool in the fight against COVID after it reduced hospitalizations or deaths of high-risk patients by around 90% in a clinical trial.

There are only a few proven antiviral treatments. The others are Merck & Co’s MRK.N rival pill molnupiravir, much less effective, and Gilead Sciences Inc’s intravenous remdesivir.

The United States has agreed to buy 20 million pills at a price of about $530 per dose, and Pfizer is set to produce 3.5 million doses for use in the country by the end of April.

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