Pharmac simplifies criteria for COVID-19 antiviral treatments

Media release Medicines COVID-19

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac has confirmed today that it is simplifying the access criteria for the three antiviral treatments it funds for treating early COVID-19. From Wednesday 14 September 2022, the number of people who can access these treatments will more than double. 

“Pharmac widened access to COVID-19 antivirals in July 2022, ensuring that the people at highest risk would have access to these treatments,” says Pharmac’s chief medical officer, Dr David Hughes. “We are pleased to confirm that from this Wednesday even more New Zealanders could benefit from these treatments.”

“The access criteria for the antiviral treatments for COVID-19 will be widened to include a larger priority population of people at risk of severe illness from COVID-19 infection,” says Dr Hughes. “This will include all people aged 65 years and over, and Māori and Pacific peoples over the age of 50. Other people below these ages would need to have three high-risk medical conditions(external link) to be eligible.”

“Pharmac has been working closely with the supplier of Paxlovid, Pfizer to secure more stock as the COVID-19 environment continues to evolve. An additional 40,000 courses have been ordered and are expected to arrive in New Zealand in the next few weeks. We are confident we will be able to order more if we need to, but with the reducing COVID-19 cases and arrival of more stock, we can simplify the criteria and widen access to these treatments.”

“We expect that simplifying the criteria may remove some of the barriers to access these antivirals and make it easier for healthcare practitioners to consider treatment options for people in their community. As COVID-19 is still present in Aotearoa we would like to see as many people as possible stay well for summer.” concludes Dr Hughes.

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Pharmac has funded remdesivir, an infusion treatment (branded as Veklury) since September 2020, nirmatrelvir with ritonavir (branded as Paxlovid) since April 2022, and molnupiravir (branded as Lagevrio) since May 2022 – all antivirals used in the community and Te Whatu Ora Hospitals to treat people with early COVID-19 at risk of severe illness.

You can read all about the available and soon to be available COVID-19 treatments on our website. Treatments for COVID-19 are funded using money from the Government’s COVID-19 response fund rather than from the Combined Pharmaceutical Budget. 

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