COVID-19 relief in a pill

Second COVID-19 oral treatment listed on PBS

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The second prescription-only oral treatment for COVID-19 will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for certain Australians from May 1. Image: Shutterstock

The second prescription-only oral treatment for COVID-19 will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for certain Australians from May 1. Image: Shutterstock

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The second prescription-only COVID-19 oral treatment will become available from May 1.

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The second prescription-only COVID-19 oral treatment will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of getting really sick from the disease from May 1.

Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral anti-viral medicine which can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said the medicine will help reduce the need for hospital admission.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 - which is confirmed by a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test and verified by the prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner - and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, can be prescribed Paxlovid if:

They are 65 or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as increasing age is a risk factor, patients who are 75 or older only need to have one other risk factor);

They are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 50 or older with two other risk factors for severe disease; or

They are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

Final data from all high-risk patients enrolled in a EPIC-HR (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in High-Risk Patients) study showed that Paxlovid reduced risk of hospitalisation or death by 88 per cent when patients were treated within five days of symptom onset.

The PBS listing means those eligible can access this medicine from their local community pharmacy with a prescription from their doctor or nurse practitioner.

Patients will pay a maximum of $42.50 per script, or as little as $6.80 with a concession card.

This announcement follows the listing of Lagevrio (molnupiravir) on the PBS from March 1. Around 5000 patients have already received Lagevrio through the PBS.

Mr Hunt said it is important that patients continue to follow local health guidance to isolate if they test positive for COVID-19. It's recommended they use telehealth to consult their doctor and ask their pharmacy to arrange for Paxlovid to be delivered to their home, if necessary.

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