Australia is securing thousands of courses of a “promising” antiviral pill that could be given to adults with COVID-19, if the Therapeutic Goods Administration approves it.
It came as Victoria recorded a national record of 1763 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday.
The federal government has bought 300,000 courses of the pills, called molnupiravir, which US drug company Merck and biotech company Ridgeback Biotherapeutics say could reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death by 50%.
The treatment, taken twice a day for five days by adults with mild or moderate symptoms, has been shown to keep their condition from deteriorating.
But the drug arriving in Australia depends on the TGA approving it which could happen early next year.
The drug would join existing treatments, remdesivir and sotrovimab, already being used to treat patients with COVID-19 in Australia.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said the government was ensuring Australians had access to vaccines and potential treatments.
“While our vaccination rate continues to climb, we’ve been investing in and closely monitoring research into COVID-19 treatments and we are securing supply of promising treatments,” Morrison said.
Health minister Greg Hunt the TGA had been undertaking an analysis of molnupiravir.
“The TGA is allowing data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 treatments to be provided as it is available to allow for an early approval for use in Australia without skipping any steps,” Hunt said.
He said vaccination remained the best and safest way for Australians to protect themselves.
“In addition to this, our Government will continue to seek access to further treatments which will assist with Australians living with COVID-19,” Hunt said.