Black, Hispanic People in the US Got Covid Treatments Less Often Than White People

The US has spent billions to purchase Covid-19 drugs that are critical in helping to mitigate the uneven impact of the pandemic, which has fallen heavily on minority groups

A worker unpacks boxes of Pfizer Inc.s Paxlovid antiviral medication in a warehouse in Shoham, Israel.
By Madison Muller
October 27, 2022 | 06:12 PM

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Bloomberg — Pfizer Inc.’s (PFE) Paxlovid antiviral was prescribed to Black and Hispanic Covid-19 patients at much lower rates than those who were White, according to a study that calls into question efforts to bolster access to drugs that fight the coronavirus.

From April to July, as Paxlovid’s use peaked, Black US patients received it about a third less often than White patients, according to the report published Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stark disparities were also seen among Hispanic patients, who were nearly 30% less likely to get Paxlovid than White patients. Asian people were prescribed the drug about 19% less frequently than White counterparts.

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Disparities in Paxlovid treatment were even worse among people at high risk of developing Covid, such as those older than 50 and with weakened immune systems, who are at highest priority to receive it. Monoclonal antibodies, another key treatment for such patients, were also prescribed unequally, the study found, with White patients receiving 81% of the therapies during the study period.

The US has spent billions to purchase Covid-19 drugs that are critical in helping to mitigate the uneven impact of the pandemic, which has fallen heavily on minority groups. Although gaps in vaccination rates have narrowed since earlier in the pandemic, the data reveal access to treatments remains fragmented.


The CDC report is based on electronic health records from 692,570 Covid patients above the age of 20 who sought treatment any time during January to July, when omicron became the dominant Covid strain in the US. Expanding Covid-19 vaccine and therapeutic equity programs “can help protect persons most at risk for severe illness and facilitate equitable health outcomes,” according to the study’s authors at academic and research centers in the South, Midwest and Northeast, as well as CDC itself.

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Ramped Up Efforts

Early disparities in where antiviral medications were dispensed at pharmacies, distrust between providers and patients due to negative past experiences, and racism or implicit bias among health care professionals may all have played a role in the inequalities, the authors said. Limited transportation and language barriers could have also contributed, they said.

The Biden administration has ramped up access efforts, saying earlier this week that drugstore chain Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. will work with Uber Technologies Inc. (UBER) and DoorDash Inc. to deliver Paxlovid to people living in underserved communities for free.

One recent Kaiser Family Foundation report found that Covid-related disparities generally widen during periods in which the virus has surged. Although US Covid cases and hospitalizations are relatively low compared, health experts have warned that new immune-evasive omicron variants may spur a winter increase in infections.