Hong Kong’s private doctors can now order more Covid-19 oral drugs from the government as it has relaxed supply quotas to cope with a recent surge in infections.
General practitioners had warned they were running out of the oral antivirals Paxlovid and molnupiravir for Covid-19 patients as cases climbed over the past two weeks.
A spokesman for the administration on Monday night said that after reviewing the stock of government-procured Covid-19 oral treatments, it would relax the number of courses private doctors could request through the Electronic Health Record Sharing System (eHRSS) platform each time to better address the recent situation.
The number of standard courses of each drug that could be requested per order was increased to 10 from six with immediate effect.
The Department of Health also issued a letter notifying private doctors of the arrangement and reminding them the oral drugs requested could only be prescribed to “eligible persons” who were infected.
Infected residents aged 60 or above and younger patients with high-risk factors such as extraordinarily weak immunity are eligible for the oral drugs, according to government guidelines.
The department said the drugs would be distributed the next working day for requests made before 4pm during weekdays.
It said doctors should remind patients not to save or transfer unused drugs.
Pointing to shortages of the oral drugs, family doctor Edmund Lam Wing-wo said the number of Covid-19 patients visiting his clinic over the past 10 days had risen from two to three daily to about 20, and about 30 per cent of them were eligible for the treatments.
The shortage was worse on weekends when more patients showed up but the drug deliverers were on leave, he added.
“Like last Saturday afternoon, my stock ran out, and the patients who came afterwards as well as the seven who came on Sunday were not given the medicines,” he said.
“New deliveries came this morning but they’re gone already.”
Lam said he believed the boost in supplies would be sufficient to tackle the current situation but he suggested the authorities allow doctors to make additional orders even before delivery of the previous one to cope with unexpected needs.
The government spokesman said the authorities would continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments on the platform at the appropriate time depending on the epidemic situation, drug usage and demand.
Private doctors registered with the eHRSS who have obtained the oral drugs can be found on this list.
Molnupiravir became available locally in late February last year and soon after that Paxlovid in mid-March as a fifth wave of infections engulfed the city.
Both were initially provided to public hospitals, designated clinics for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms and homes for the elderly, before being given to private doctors and hospitals.