Another COVID-19 drug in the medicine chest

New Zealanders who contract COVID-19 now have access to 6 medicines proven to safely prevent the most severe and life-threatening symptoms of the virus.

Health Minister Andrew Little was in Auckland this afternoon to see the first shipment of molnupiravir, the second oral anti-viral COVID-19 medicine to arrive in the country.

Anti-virals stop people with mild COVID-19 symptoms from becoming very sick and needing to go to hospital, and because they are pills, they are easy for people to take at home.

New Zealand was one of the first countries to secure access to supplies of molnupiravir. It was approved this month by medicines regulator Medsafe, and the first shipment has just arrived.

Vaccination is still our first and best line of defence, but it is important to have a range of treatments available for people who contract COVID-19 and are at risk of becoming seriously ill.

We already have 4 medicines — Baricitinib, Ronapreve, Remdesivir and Tocilizumab —being used in hospitals, and this month another anti-viral, Paxlovid, started being used to treat people at home.

Adding molnupiravir into the mix means doctors have got a range of medicines to combat the worst symptoms of COVID-19 and protect people who are immunocompromised or have complex health conditions. It also helps prevent the health system from being overwhelmed.

Another medicine, Evusheld, a prophylactic treatment which can prevent people who can’t have vaccines from getting COVID-19, is awaiting Medsafe approval.

All COVID-19 medicines are funded through the Government’s COVID-19 fund.

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