New PBS drug: Anti-viral COVID pill could help reduce hospitalisations for people with mild to moderate symptoms

By Melissa Coade

April 11, 2022

Greg Hunt
Health minister Greg Hunt. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Paxlovid, a prescription-only oral medication 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 severe disease’ could start treatment within five days of first getting symptoms. Doctors and nurse practitioners will be able to write a prescription for the medicine, which can be purchased from a local pharmacy. 

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

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

At-risk patients include those who are COVID-positive and: 

  • Are over 65-years with two other risk factors for severe disease, and those over 75 with at least one risk factor; or
  • Are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, aged over 50, and with two other risk factors for severe disease; or
  • Are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

The medicine was recommended for PBS listing by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee, with final data from a study of high-risk patients showing Paxlovid reduced risk of hospitalisation 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 via the national medical stockpile for use in people at risk,” Hunt said, noting 42,867 packs (courses) of Paxlovid had been deployed from the stockpile so far. 

“The government has also provided Paxlovid to Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisations and the Royal Flying Doctor Service for use in people 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 that 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 to COVID-19 are being advised by authorities to local health guidance to isolate, consult with a doctor using telehealth, and ask their pharmacy to help the right medications be delivered to their home.


READ MORE:

TGA gives early approval to first oral treatments for COVID in Australia

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