New York City will consider a patient’s race when distributing potentially life-saving COVID treatments, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has revealed on its website.
The city “will take race and ethnicity into account when assessing individual risk,” read the agency’s official Dec. 20 guidelines, which added that “long-standing systemic inequalities in health and social issues ”may contribute to an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.
The guidelines apply to both the delivery of monoclonal antibodies and oral antivirals such as Paxlovid and Molnupiravir.
“Monoclonal antibody treatments have prevented at least 1,100 hospitalizations and at least 500 deaths among those treated in New York City,” the city said in October.
The race-based approach to treatment has already started to have real-world consequences. A Staten Island doctor said he filled two prescriptions for Paxlovid this week and the pharmacist asked him to disclose the race of his patients before treatment was allowed.
“In my 30 years of medicine, I was never asked this question while prescribing treatment,” said the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “Just having to ask this question is a slippery slope.”
The two patients, who are white, finally got their prescriptions.
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A recent “request for proposal” form on behalf of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene underscored the agency’s commitment to “racial equity.”
“The… DOHMH is committed to improving health outcomes for all New Yorkers by explicitly advancing racial equity and social justice. Racial equity does not simply mean treating everyone equally, but rather allocating resources and services in a way that explicitly addresses the barriers imposed by structural racism (i.e. policies and institutional practices that perpetuate racial inequality) and white privilege, ”one reads.
It is not known if the new guidelines on “race” have not yet excluded whites from treatment, but observers and doctors fear that a system will be created that could lead to racial exclusions in the future when. a shortage of drugs or an increase in cases.
“We collect demographic data on COVID antivirals at the request of the city for anonymized data reporting purposes only, as is typically done with COVID tests and vaccines,” said Michael Krueger, a pharmacy representative. For now, the city is participating exclusively with Alto Pharmacy to distribute the new drugs.
Medical experts said it was correct to assign COVID treatment based on those most at risk, but stressed that race is not a biological risk factor.
“I have not seen [race] as one of the risk factors for serious illness and death, ”Martin Kulldorff, epidemiologist and professor at Harvard, told The Post. “The reason so many African Americans died in New York City – which is true – is that the wealthy and better-off people worked from home while the working class was exposed. “
“The confinements have discriminated against minorities. Basically, they have discriminated against the working class, and minorities make up a larger proportion of the working class. Kulldorff added.
In a public notice, the state’s health department said last week that “non-white race or Hispanic / Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor” – placing him in a class with d other COVID risk factors such as age and obesity.
“There are severe supply shortages for all COVID-19 outpatient therapy,” warn city health officials, who urge providers to follow state guidelines.
The guidelines follow a series of new laws signed by Governor Hochul aimed at “addressing[ing] racial discrimination and injustice. One of the new edicts formally declares that racism is a public health crisis.
“It’s just absurd and it shows that it’s not about public health. It wasn’t about the health of New Yorkers from the start, ”Andrew Giuliani, a GOP candidate for governor. told the Post. “Politics comes before the health and safety of New Yorkers. It continues from the Cuomo administration to the Hochul administration with these new laws.
“New Yorkers of color have borne the brunt of this pandemic due to structural racism and the legacy of divestment in many minority communities,” Michael Lanza, spokesperson for the Department of Health of Canada, told The Post. the city. “Physicians are advised to consider the disproportionate impact felt by these communities in addition to systemic health disparities when prescribing treatments for those most at risk of developing severe COVID-19 problems. “
Lanza added that the data was only collected “to assess an equitable distribution” and that race would never be used as a ground for refusing treatment.
Antiviral treatment for coronavirus infection represents the cutting edge of treatment for the virus. Interest in therapeutics peaked with the arrival of the new Omicron variant and its widespread ability to evade the vaccine.
On December 22, the Federal Food and Drug Administration approved emergency use authorization for Paxlovid “for the treatment of mild to moderate coronavirus disease” for anyone 12 years of age and older. Molnupiravir received authorization for emergency use a week later.