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CMS Urges Providers to Ensure Timely Availability of COVID-19 Therapeutics

"Every patient who tests positive for COVID-19 should be evaluated to determine whether the use of a therapeutic is appropriate," stresses a Nov. 22, 2022 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) memo to state survey agencies overseeing all CMS-regulated provider types. The memo highlights the ability of two antiviral treatments – Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) and Lagevrio (molnupiravir) – as well as monoclonal antibody treatments to prevent serious illness and save lives. The antivirals should be initiated within five days of symptom onset and the monoclonal antibodies within seven days of symptom onset. CMS reminds providers that even when a patient's symptoms may not initially present as severe, the patient's risk profile should be considered in determining whether to prescribe therapeutics.

The CMS memo (QSO-23-03-All) specifically encourages nursing homes that are at risk of experiencing an outbreak to contact their long term care pharmacies to discuss ordering an advance supply of oral antivirals in order to expedite access to the treatment. In addition, the memo urges nursing homes to review the latest National Institutes of Health (NIH) treatment guidelines available here and here, as well as to review and reinforce infection prevention protocols.

The memo also emphasizes that staying up to date with vaccinations, including boosters, is the best defense against severe illness and death from COVID-19. It reminds nursing homes of their obligation under federal regulations to educate residents and staff about the vaccine, to offer to administer it, and to report vaccination data to the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). 

The memo notes that it does not reflect new survey guidance or policy. It is a reference memo only.

Contact: Karen Lipson, klipson@leadingageny.org