Many scientists and thought-leaders are now considering ways to shift our approach to COVID-19, which they believe will transition from a pandemic virus to an endemic one. That shift brings therapeutic treatments front-and-center. 

One can’t help wondering how many lives would have been saved had we been able to treat early COVID two years ago.

Merck and Pfizer have made progress in developing new antiviral medications for COVID, but even now neither company’s product is ready for market. Merck’s antiviral narrowly passed a review panel. According to Statnews, “In the final results, the result shrank to a 30% decrease, or a 3% absolute difference in hospitalization in the full population.”And Pfizer’s antiviral is still pending EUA approval in Phase 3 of clinical trials.

Normally, American women expect access to the full continuum of care for themselves and their families. We assume responsibility for personal care including diet, exercise, and sleep among other preventive measures such as vitamins and supplements readily available. We consult our physician for wellness care and persistent problems, and access emergency care for more urgent concerns.

In my area of Michigan, I still hear from patients referred to emergency rooms by primary care providers who say they have nothing to offer them. Their emergency rooms send them home with a COVID diagnosis and instructions to monitor their symptoms — but no treatment. They are to simply wait it out, it seems, and hope for recovery.

Many do recover on their own. However, for the others, no preventive or home care measures have been 100% effective, and no cure is available. Although highly effective, monoclonal antibodies are expensive and require skilled administration.

Clearly, there is a gap in the continuum of care that centers over access to early treatment from primary care clinicians. Unfortunately, attempts to fill the gap have become politically-charged. 

Ivermectin purchases increased 24-fold by September 1, as people used it to self-medicate against the advice of authorities such as the Food and Drug Administration, American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, and more. Sadly, many Americans have lost trust in these institutions and, understandably, they question the strong relationship between big pharmaceutical companies and the government. But now their skepticism has broadened to the medical establishment as well. 

Whether it’s the debate about masks, vaccines, ventilators, Remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, or ivermectin, it’s difficult to believe politics could divide healthcare to this extent. Allowing party politics to direct our personal healthcare choices is ridiculous on the face of it. How does this division serve health?

The shift in the fight against COVID-19 to focus on early treatment is one change we will see in 2022. We can also hope for a shift toward less politicization of health care overall.