Covid-19 pill for patients at home may be reviewed for approval early next year


A treatment for Covid-19 that could be given as pills to patients at home is expected to be reviewed by Medsafe for approval early next year.

A photo of Drugmaker Merck's Covid-19 molnupiravir pills.

A photo of Drugmaker Merck’s Covid-19 molnupiravir pills. Photo: AFP

Pharmac’s Covid-19 Therapeutics Advisory Group has recommended the antiviral drug Molnupiravir be funded to treat those with mild-to-moderate symptoms who are more at risk of being hospitalised due to their age or underlying health conditions.

It’s an oral medicine, given as a five-day course.

The group has also recommended the use of two new medicines, under the brand name Regen-Cov for the treatment of profoundly immunocompromised people with symptomatic Covid-19, for use in the community. It’s currently under assessment by Medsafe.

Current medicines used to treat Covid-19 are for patients in hospital care with moderate-to-severe symptoms.

Medsafe yesterday approved a new medicine, Ronapreve, given intravenously, to treat such Covid-19 patients in hospital.

Pharmac is consulting on the criteria for patients to access Ronapreve, and that is open to the public until 12 January.

Its chief medical officer, Dr David Hughes, said access criteria was used to ensure the medicines Pharmac funds are given to those with the highest health need and those most likely to benefit from the treatment.

“In this consultation we are asking health professionals and stakeholders, including consumer groups, for their feedback on what we are proposing.”

Ronapreve is also being proposed to treat profoundly immunocompromised people with mild-to-moderate Covid-19 symptoms in the community.

“There may be others in the community who would benefit from access to Ronapreve, but currently fall outside the currently proposed patient access criteria,” Dr Hughes said.

“We have sought further advice from the Covid-19 clinical expert advisory group about this, and we will be considering this further in the New Year.”

Advance purchase agreements have been negotiated for Ronapreve, molnupiravir and Pfizer’s antiviral treatment.

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