Pharmac confirms access criteria for COVID-19 treatments

Media release Medicines COVID-19

Pharmac has today confirmed the access criteria for two COVID-19 treatments – baricitinib and casirivimab with imdevimab (branded as Ronapreve). Both will be available for use in DHB hospitals from 1 February 2022.

“Pharmac uses access criteria to ensure the medicines we fund are given to those with the highest health need and those most likely to benefit from the treatment,” says Dr David Hughes, Pharmac’s Chief Medical Officer. “In December we put out a consultation to healthcare professionals and stakeholders, including consumer groups, to help us make decisions on the access criteria for these two treatments.”

“From 1 February, baricitinib can be used in hospital to treat those with moderate to severe symptoms of COVID-19, in circumstances where tocilizumab (an alternative treatment which has been in short supply) is not available. Ronapreve can also be used in hospital for patients with COVID-19 who have mild to moderate symptoms and are at high risk of progressing to severe disease.

“We would also like to make Ronapreve available for use in the community for profoundly immunocompromised people, with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms. Because of the infectious nature of the disease, we are working with the Ministry of Health to develop how it will be supplied and distributed in the community. Until that mechanism is developed, it will be accessed through DHB hospitals.”

“Reports show that Ronapreve is successful in treating those with the Delta variant of COVID-19. The evidence is less clear and still emerging for its use in treating Omicron, and we are continuing to work as quickly as possible to assess the latest evidence as it becomes available. We are also working hard to secure access to further treatments.”

“Getting vaccinated and boosted is the best defence against COVID-19. For those who do become unwell with COVID-19, I want to reassure New Zealanders that Pharmac is working as quickly as possible to assess, and secure access to, treatments. We are doing this using specific funding allocated by the Government for the purchase of COVID-19 treatments, rather than from the Combined Pharmaceutical Budget,” concludes Dr Hughes. 

Background information

Baricitinib is not currently Medsafe approved for use in the treatment of COVID-19 and clinicians prescribing it will need to comply with section 25 of the Medicines Act 1981. Ronapreve is Medsafe approved for use in the treatment of COVID-19. 

Pronunciation guide

  • Baricitinib = Bara-sit-inib
  • Ronapreve = Ron-a-preeeve
  • Tocilizumab = Toss-a-liz-u-mab
  • Remdesivir = Rem-des-evir
  • Molnupiravir = Mol-nu-peer-a-ver