New Zealand bolsters drug slate to treat COVID-19

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New Zealand is boosting its full range of medicines to treat COVID-19 with the arrival in the country of a drug, Paxlovid, and securing access to the country’s first pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment, the report announced. Health Minister Andrew Little.

“Two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, we had no vaccines or drugs to specifically treat COVID-19 or prevent its spread,” said Andrew Little.

“Now we have four vaccines and 95% of eligible people are vaccinated. And we currently have four drugs used in hospitals to treat people who need them – Baricitinib, Ronapreve, Remdesivir and Tocilizumab.

“From next week we will add Paxlovid to the mix – pills that people with mild cases who are most at risk of getting seriously ill can take at home.

“The first shipment of Paxlovid has arrived in New Zealand ahead of schedule and will start being offered to those most at risk from next week, protecting people from serious illness and the healthcare system from overwhelm.

“Access to Paxlovid will be restricted to ensure it gets to those who need it most. It will be prescribed by doctors, taking into account factors such as age, disability and be immunocompromised.”

Pharmac, the national drug funding agency, has also secured access to another drug, Molnupiravir, which is awaiting approval from Medsafe.

“That’s six drugs, and I’m very happy to hear today that Pharmac has gained access to a seventh, AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, which can prevent people who can’t get the vaccine from getting COVID- 19,” said Andrew Little.

“Evusheld is a pre-exposure prophylactic treatment that can actually prevent people from developing COVID-19 and, if approved by Medsafe, will be an invaluable tool in protecting people who cannot get vaccinated.

“It means we will have medicine to treat those who need it, from before an infection sets in through to cases of severe infection. This is a remarkable achievement in two years, and it is part of of our plan to keep New Zealanders safe as we head into winter.

“The emergence of highly effective vaccines and drugs means we can better manage COVID-19 while reopening our borders and easing restrictions. They mean we can focus on a safer recovery knowing we have a highly vaccinated population and those most at risk of the virus will also have drugs to help protect them.”

Funding for all COVID drugs comes from the government’s COVID-19 fund.

(With contributions from the New Zealand government press release)

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