Medicines to treat COVID-19

Medicines to treat COVID-19 are available for eligible people who have tested positive for COVID-19 or are at risk of getting seriously ill.

What medicines are available for eligible people

Three COVID-19 antiviral medicines are available to treat early COVID-19 at home:

  • ritonavir with nirmatrelvir (branded as Paxlovid)
  • molnupiravir (branded as Lagevrio)
  • remdesivir, an infusion treatment (branded as Veklury).

When taken early on in your COVID-19 illness, they can help you stay out of hospital. They are only available for eligible people.

Who can get antivirals

Paxlovid

Paxlovid consists of 2 medicines (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) that you take together. They reduce the amount of virus in your body. You take Paxlovid tablets for 5 days.

It is important to tell your doctor and pharmacist of any illnesses, and medicines, herbal remedies or supplements you are taking. They may affect the safety of Paxlovid.

Visit Health Navigator for information about Paxlovid, including how to take it, what to think about before you take it, and possible side effects.

Paxlovid | Health Navigator (external link)

Molnupiravir

Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) is a medicine that reduces the amount of virus in your body. You take molnupiravir capsules for 5 days.

Visit Health Navigator for information about molnupiravir, including how to take it, what to think about before you take it, and possible side effects.

Molnupiravir | Health Navigator (external link)

Remdesivir

Remdesivir (Veklury) is a medicine that reduces the amount of virus in your body. It is given once a day, usually for 3 days. It is given by a slow injection into your vein (called an intravenous infusion), over 30 to 120 minutes.

Visit Health Navigator for information about remdesivir, including when it is given and possible side effects.

Remdesivir | Health Navigator (external link)

Who can get antivirals

COVID-19 antivirals are only available for eligible people.

Getting a prescription from a doctor or nurse

If you test positive for COVID-19

Talk to your doctor or nurse by phone to see if getting a prescription is right for you.

They will help you work out if you are eligible for COVID-19 medicine. It will depend on several factors, including your age, ethnicity, other health conditions and vaccination status.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get a test.

How to get a COVID-19 test

If you get COVID-19 you must self-isolate for at least 7 days and cannot leave your home.

If you are eligible for medicines, arrange to have them delivered by friends or whānau. Your pharmacy may also have a delivery option.

How to self-isolate

If you are at-risk of serious illness but do not have COVID-19 symptoms

If you are at risk of becoming very unwell with COVID-19 you may be able to get a prescription before you get COVID-19.

This means the pharmacist will have the prescription ready to use if you become unwell.

If you test positive, you can then arrange to have the medicine delivered by your friends, whānau or the pharmacy.

Your doctor, nurse or pharmacist will confirm that it is still safe for you to take COVID-19 medicines.

You will not be able to get the medicine until you are diagnosed with COVID-19.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if getting a prescription before you get unwell is right for you.

Getting COVID medicine from a pharmacist

You might be eligible to get COVID-19 medicines from a pharmacist if you have tested positive, or have symptoms and are a Household Contact.

To be eligible you must also either:

  • have a severely weakened immune system
  • have Down syndrome
  • have sickle cell disease
  • be aged 75 years or older, or
  • have been previously admitted to an intensive care unit directly as a result of COVID-19 and have tested positive again.

You might also be eligible if you:

  • are taking regular medicines
  • are older
  • are of Māori or Pacific Island ethnicity
  • have complex health needs or disability
  • are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations.

You do not need a doctor’s prescription. Some pharmacists will be able to supply COVID-19 antivirals without a prescription.

Talk to your pharmacist or a registered nurse either immediately after you test positive or develop symptoms to see if the medicines are right for you.

When you have COVID-19 you must self-isolate for at least 7 days and cannot leave your home. If you are eligible for medicines, arrange to have them delivered by friends or whānau, or order online from a pharmacy.

How to self-isolate

Medicines given in hospital

Some other medicines are available to treat COVID-19 but are only given in hospital.

Pharmac, the agency which decides what medicines to publicly fund in New Zealand, has more information on its website.

New Zealand’s COVID-19 treatments portfolio | Pharmac (external link)

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