NZ secures new Pfizer COVID-19 medicine

New Zealand has secured Pfizer's antiviral medicine to help treat COVID-19.

New Zealand has secured supplies of another medicine to treat COVID-19.

In October, New Zealand was one of the first countries in the world to make an advance purchase of a promising new antiviral drug, molnupiravir.

The national drug-funding agency Pharmac has secured from Pfizer 60,000 courses of another antiviral medicine which, like molnupiravir, can be taken as a tablet and used to stop people with mild symptoms becoming very sick.

Vaccinations and following the scan-mask-pass routine are still the best ways of stopping the spread of COVID-19, but it is important we also have a range of medicines to treat those who do get sick.

Alongside vaccinations, our hospital treatments are already reducing the likelihood of people needing ICU care, with the ICU rate in Auckland dropping to 3% of hospitalisations, down from 5.7% previously.

Molnupiravir works by introducing copying errors during replication, which means you are less likely to get a fully functioning virus.

Pfizer’s antiviral drug, which does not yet have a brand name in New Zealand, also inhibits replication but in a different way, by preventing the cleavage of certain proteins necessary to create a fully functioning virus.

The government has made sure Pharmac can continue to secure early access to new and promising COVID medicines as soon as possible, with $175 million allocated for medicines and supply chain costs and another $300 million available for purchasing more COVID-19 therapeutics.  

Both drugs are still subject to approval by Medsafe, but trials look promising and by securing access to both we are doing everything possible to make sure New Zealanders have available medicines that are easy to administer and prevent most people who contract COVID-19 from being so sick they need to go to hospital.

The Pfizer anti-viral is expected to be delivered to New Zealand in April, once approved by MedSafe. Other COVID-19 medicines secured by Pharmac are baricitinib, remdesivir, tocilizumab, and Ronapreve.

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