Medicines to treat COVID-19

COVID-19 antiviral medicines can help people who are at risk of becoming very sick with COVID-19.

Latest update —14 September

Pharmac has widened access to COVID-19 antivirals from 14 September 2022. This means more New Zealanders can access these medicines. Find out more about the widened access criteria.

Who can get antivirals

People with a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are eligible for treatment with COVID-19 medicines.

You may be eligible if you have tested positive, or have symptoms and are a Household Contact.

One of the following must also apply:

  • aged 65 or over
  • Māori or Pacific ethnicity aged 50-plus
  • aged 50-plus AND have not completed a primary course of COVID-19 vaccinations
  • a combination of 3 or more high-risk medical conditions
  • a severely weakened immune system
  • Down syndrome
  • sickle cell disease
  • previously been admitted to critical care or high dependency care as a result of COVID-19 and have tested positive again.

Find out about high-risk medical conditions:

People at higher risk from COVID-19

The Ministry of Health has a detailed eligibility guide:

Eligibility guide for COVID-19 antivirals (external link)

When to take COVID-19 antiviral medicines

COVID-19 antiviral medicines are available to treat eligible people with COVID-19 at home.

You must start taking COVID-19 medicines within the first 5 days of getting symptoms.

When taken early in your COVID-19 illness, antivirals can help you stay out of hospital.

These medicines are free for eligible people within 5 days of their symptoms starting.

How to get antivirals

If you test positive for COVID-19 or are a Household Contact

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.

Some pharmacists will be able to supply COVID-19 antivirals without a prescription if you test positive or are a Household Contact. The pharmacist will check your eligibility.

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.

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 test positive for COVID-19.

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

Medicines 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).

Find a pharmacy

Pharmacies supplying antivirals can be found on Healthpoint.

You will need a prescription at these pharmacies:

Pharmacies where you need a prescription | Healthpoint (external link)

You will not need a prescription at these pharmacies:

Pharmacies where you do not need a prescription | Healthpoint (external link)

How to get medicines if you are self-isolating

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

If you are eligible for medicines, arrange to have them delivered by friends, whānau or by other means. Some pharmacies can deliver the medicine.

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)

COVID-19 preventative medicine

If you are severely immunocompromised you may be eligible for Evusheld.

Evusheld is a preventative medicine and can help reduce severe illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19.

It is currently available for severely immunocompromised people in hospitals for those 12 years old and over. You can get the 2 injections of Evusheld before you get COVID-19, or at least 2 weeks after your recovery. Evusheld will be available in the community from late September.

Talk to your doctor or health professional about whether this medicine is right for you.

People at higher risk from COVID-19

Eligibility criteria for Evusheld | Pharmac (external link)

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