New Zealand buys 120,000 courses of Covid antiviral drugs

Health authorities have ordered 120,000 courses of antivirals to fight mild to moderate cases of Covid.

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The joint effort of the Ministry of Health and Pharmaceuticals comes as cases abroad increase during the northern winter.

It is hoped that the combination of high vaccination rates, more drug options and the booster will prepare New Zealand in time for our next winter.

The New Zealand drug agency has ordered 60,000 courses of two drug tablets, in the race for treatment for Covid-19.

Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said two of the new drugs involve taking 5-day pills, and that she is also considering a third treatment, which can be given intravenously or by injection.

“This brings our range of safe treatments to six to date – three of them are already in use in hospitals and three of them are subject to Medsafe approval, we hope to secure stock next year. . “

Fitt said Pharmac had not yet determined who would be eligible for the drugs, but supplies would be limited.

The Department of Health’s chief scientific adviser Dr Ian Town said New Zealand is currently using pre-existing drugs for severe to critical cases.

He said the new drugs would help prevent cases from reaching this stage.

“If we can have a drug that is made available to a person who has been recently diagnosed with Covid-19, then we may be able to slow the progression of the disease and prevent them from needing medical attention. more intensive or even end up in the hospital. “

Health Director General Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the current outbreak in Europe is the equivalent of New Zealand having between 3,000 and 4,000 cases and 10 to 20 deaths per day.

He said those numbers relate to the area currently in winter, and that local agencies are working to secure new drugs before New Zealand’s next winter.

“One of the things we’re looking at is how to prepare for next winter,” said Dr Bloomfield.

“Our treatments, and making sure we have them available will be a key part of that.”

Authorities said modeling here and abroad, in countries like Ireland, had guided Pharmac on the quantity of drugs ordered.

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