Access criteria for antiviral treatments widened as molnupiravir arrives in New Zealand

Media release Medicines COVID-19

Pharmac is widening access to the antivirals to treat people with early COVID-19, after receiving feedback from our expert advisors and clinicians that the access criteria needed updating and to be streamlined. This comes in time for the arrival of the first shipment of MSD’s molnupiravir, giving vulnerable New Zealanders with COVID-19 access to three antiviral treatments.

Read the widened access criteria

Pharmac funds nirmatrelvir with ritonavir (branded as Paxlovid), infusion treatment remdesivir (branded as Veklury) and molnupiravir (branded as Lagevrio) – all antivirals to treat people with early COVID-19.

“We want to ensure those who need the antivirals are able to access them,” says Pharmac’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr David Hughes. “We have heard from healthcare professionals that managing multiple antiviral treatments for COVID-19, with different access criteria, is difficult.”

“To help manage this we have updated the access criteria to cover all the antiviral treatments that are currently available for the treatment of early COVID-19 here in New Zealand. We have done this following advice from our COVID Treatments Advisory Group”.

“Those who have COVID-19 and are immunocompromised or have comorbidities that put them at risk of severe COVID-19 and are within five days of the onset of symptoms (or seven days for remdesivir) will be eligible for treatment, as before.”

“The access criteria has been updated to give access to those most at risk of severe COVID-19, which includes people with Down syndrome or Sickle Cell disease. The access criteria has also been widened to reflect the increased risk of severe COVID-19 for people aged 65 years and over and those who have not completed a full course of vaccination against COVID-19.”

“While vaccinations and booster shots are the best defence against COVID-19, we are pleased to have three antiviral treatments for those who become unwell and without treatment, could be hospitalised.”

“New Zealand now has six treatments available to treat those with COVID-19, as well as an advance purchase agreement for the pre-exposure treatment Evusheld, which is expected to be available after receiving Medsafe approval,” concludes Dr Hughes.

Molnupiravir will be available in the community, on prescription from next week.

Pronunciation guide

Molnupiravir: mole-new-pear-aveer

Nirmatrelvir with ritonavir: Nirma-trel-veer with rit-on-a-veer

Paxlovid: pax-low-vid

Remdesivir: Rem-des-eh-veer

Evusheld: F-u-shelled 

Related links

COVID-19 Treatments Advisory Group

Media release: Pharmac secures advance purchase agreement for a pre-exposure COVID-19 treatment

Pharmac's COVID-19 treatment portfolio