Pharmac ensures earlier access to key COVID-19 treatment

Media release Medicines COVID-19

The access criteria for remdesivir is being temporarily widened to allow hospitals to treat those with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19, who are at high risk of severe disease, as of today.

“We initially purchased remdesivir to treat people hospitalised with moderate to severe COVID‑19,” says Pharmac’s Chief Medical Officer Dr David Hughes. “It was one of the first treatment options available for COVID-19 in New Zealand, and hospitals have been using it to treat patients who met certain access criteria.”

“There is increasing evidence that remdesivir, an infusion treatment, is effective earlier in the course of COVID-19 illness. It is thought to be effective against a range of variants of concern too, including Omicron.”

“We are conscious that as COVID-19 spreads throughout New Zealand, we needed to move fast and have treatment available for those who are most at risk. The oral antivirals treatments are expected to arrive around April this year, so remdesivir gives us an effective option until they arrive.”

“This is a treatment being used around the world to treat COVID-19 and we were pleased to be able to secure additional remdesivir stock to support earlier use. We are continuing to talk with the supplier, Gilead, about ordering more.

“Our clinical experts have given us advice to inform the eligibility criteria. DHB hospitals can order remdesivir and use it to treat both inpatients and outpatients, with COVID-19 at high risk of severe disease.”

“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.

Pronunciation guide

Remdesivir                  Rem-des-avir


Background information

Remdesivir is not approved by Medsafe for sale or marketing in New Zealand – an application is currently under assessment by Medsafe. This means remdesivir needs to be prescribed and used in accordance with Section 25 of the Medicines Act 1981.

Read the product detail on Medsafe's website(external link)