COVID antiviral pill could help reduce hospitalizations for people with mild to moderate symptoms


Paxlovid, a prescription-only oral drug to treat COVID-19, will be available to at-risk Australians under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) from May.

On Monday, Health Minister Greg Hunt said people with COVID-19 who were “at high risk of developing serious illness” could start treatment within five days of first showing symptoms. Doctors and nurse practitioners will be able to write a prescription for the drug, which can be purchased at a local pharmacy.

“Patients will only pay a maximum of $42.50 per script, or as low as $6.80 with a concession card.

“Paxlovid’s PBS listing means eligible Australians can access this medicine from their local community pharmacy with a prescription from their doctor or nurse practitioner,” Hunt said.

Patients at risk include those who test positive for COVID and:

  • Are over 65 with two other risk factors for serious illness, and those over 75 with at least one risk factor; or
  • Are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, over the age of 50, and have two other risk factors for serious illness; or
  • Are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

The drug has been recommended for the PBS list by the independent body Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committeewith final data from a study of high-risk patients showing that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 88% when patients were treated within five days of symptom onset.

Hunt said state and territory governments could request Paxlovid from the government’s strategic reserve of supplies for national health emergencies.

“The government has provided Paxlovid and a range of other COVID-19 treatments to state and territory health departments through the national medical stock for use in those at risk,” Hunt said, noting that 42,867 packs ( course) of Paxlovid had been deployed from the store until now.

“The government has also provided Paxlovid to Aboriginal-controlled community health organizations and the Royal Flying Doctor Service for use in those at risk,” he said.

Last year, the Australian government secured 500,000 courses of Paxlovid, which will be doubled with more doses to be delivered in 2022.

“This means at least 1 million courses of Paxlovid will be made available to ensure at-risk Australians have access to this treatment when they need it,” Hunt said.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 are being advised by authorities at local health boards to self-isolate, seek medical attention using telehealth and ask their pharmacy to help deliver the correct medications to their homes.


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