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More covid medicines for most at-risk New Zealanders

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Ōtautahi – New Zealand is boosting its comprehensive suite of medicines to treat covid with the arrival in the country of one medication, Paxlovid, and the securing of access to the country’s first pre-exposure prophylactic treatment.

The first batch of the 60,000 courses of Paxlovid has arrived and will be used from next week., while Pharmac will secure access to preventative covid treatment Evusheld.

Two years ago, at the start of the pandemic, Aotearoa had no vaccines or medicines to specifically treat covid or prevent it spreading.

Now Aotearoa has four vaccines and 95 per cent of eligible people are vaccinated. Four medicines are being used in hospitals now to treat people who need it – Baricitinib, Ronapreve, Remdesivir and Tocilizumab.

From next week Paxlovid will be added to the mix. These are pills that people with mild cases who are at the highest risk of becoming seriously unwell can take at home.

They will start being offered to those most at risk, protecting people from getting seriously ill and the health system from being overwhelmed.

Access to Paxlovid will be tight to make sure it gets to the people who need it most. Doctors will prescribe it, taking in factors such as age, disability and being immuno-compromised.

Pharmac, the national medicines-funding agency, has also secured access to another medicine, Molnupiravir, which is awaiting Medsafe approval.

Evusheld is a pre-exposure prophylactic treatment that can actually stop people developing covid and, if approved by Medsafe, will be an invaluable tool to protect people who can’t have vaccines.

It means we will have medicines to treat those who need it, from before an infection sets in, right through to cases of severe infection. It’s a remarkable achievement in two years, and part of government plans to keep New Zealanders safe as winter approaches.