Govt signs pre-purchase agreement for another Covid drug

Source: 1News

Kiwis may be able to access a drug next year that stops patients who are gravely ill with Covid-19 from getting worse.

Medicines (file photo).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced the Government has signed a pre-purchase agreement for 60,000 doses of the drug from Pfizer.

"It's a big step forward for the management of Covid-19 globally," she said.

The anti-viral drug is expected to arrive in New Zealand in April next year.

It’s still subject to approval from medicine regulator Medsafe.

The drug is a pill administered twice a day for five days to positive patients in the early stages of the virus.

In a statement, Health Minister Andrew Little said the drug works by introducing copying errors during replication, meaning you were less likely to get a fully-functioning virus.

Little added getting vaccinated and following public health guidelines were still the best ways to prevent getting ill in the first place.

Pharmac’s chief executive Sarah Fitt said the drug gave Kiwis another line of defence against Covid-19.

"While only interim results are currently available, we are hopeful this treatment, when approved, will reduce the severity of the illness and keep New Zealanders out of hospital," she said.

In a trial of the drug involving more than 1200 patients considered to be ‘high risk’, no one administered with a real dose died, although there were 10 deaths among those who took the placebo.

Based on those results last month, Pfizer reported in November that the new antiviral drug reduces the risk of hospitalisation by 89 per cent in adults.

Medsafe has already approved tocilizumab and remdesivir for use in New Zealand, but not specifically for Covid-19. So, it must be prescribed by an authorised person.

Pharmac has also secured baricitinib, molnupiravir and ronapreve. These are yet to be approved by Medsafe.

In addition, the Government made an advance purchase of 60,000 courses of Merck's Molnupiravir in October.

The Government has allocated $175 million for medicines and supply-chain costs and another $300 million for purchasing more Covid-19 therapeutics.