End of temporary funding of palivizumab for preventing RSV

Update Medicines

Funded to help during the COVID-19 pandemic response

Palivizumab has been funded for the last two seasons from funding made available as part of the response to COVID-19 and its impacts. Pharmac used the ring-fenced COVID-19 treatment budget to pay for palivizumab, which was separate from the Combined Pharmaceutical Budget (CPB).

Palivizumab is a monthly injection that helps protect people from RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, during RSV season. Babies with respiratory illnesses and those born prematurely are most at risk from RSV.

The health system saw an unusual increase in the number of RSV cases during 2021. Our clinical advisors told us it would be important to fund palivizumab for the 2022 and 2023 RSV seasons, while there was still uncertainty about how the COVID-19 pandemic would affect the health system. Both COVID-19 and RSV disproportionately affect Māori and Pacific peoples. We wanted to use levers like this to protect those most at risk during the pandemic.

Funding palivizumab during 2022 and 2023 appears to have helped reduce hospitalisations from RSV during this time.

Palivizumab compared

The separate funding for the COVID-19 response has ended. Pharmac has now re-evaluated palivizumab to see how its health benefit to New Zealand compares to all the other treatments we would like to fund from the CPB.

We acknowledge that palivizumab reduces hospitalisation rates for at-risk babies. Our clinical advisors have recommended it be funded with a high priority. However, there's limited evidence that it reduces the number of deaths from RSV. 

Palivizumab is ranked on our Options for Investment (OFI) list, along with the other products and treatments that we would like to fund if there was available budget. Due to our current budgetary constraints, we are not able to fund palivizumab for the upcoming RSV season.