Media event date: 
10 April 2022
Date published: 
11 April 2022
Media type: 
Media release
Audience: 
General public

From May 1, the second, prescription-only, COVID-19 oral treatment will be available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of developing severe
COVID-19.

Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral anti-viral medicine which can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. This medicine will help reduce the need for hospital admission.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 – which is confirmed by a PCR or a Rapid Antigen Test and verified by the prescribing doctor or nurse practitioner – and who can start treatment within five days of symptom onset, can be prescribed Paxlovid® if:

  • they are 65 years of age or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as increasing age is a risk factor, patients who are 75 years of age of older only need to have one other risk factor)
  • they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander origin, and are 50 years of age or older with two other risk factors for severe disease, or
  • they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

Final data from all high-risk patients enrolled in a EPIC-HR (Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in High-Risk Patients) study showed that Paxlovid® reduced risk of hospitalisation or death by 88% when patients were treated within five days of symptom onset.

The PBS listing for Paxlovid® means eligible Australians can access this medicine from their local community pharmacy with a prescription from their doctor or nurse practitioner.

Patients will only pay a maximum of $42.50 per script, or as little as $6.80 with a concession card.

This announcement follows the listing of Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) on the PBS from 1 March 2022. Around 5,000 patients have already received Lagevrio® through the PBS.

These PBS listings support the National Plan to Transition Australia’s COVID-19 response.

It is important that patients continue to follow local health guidance to isolate if they test positive for COVID-19. It’s recommended they use telehealth to consult their doctor and ask their pharmacy to arrange for Paxlovid® to be delivered to their home, if necessary.

In 2021, the Australian Government secured 500,000 courses of Paxlovid®. Another 500,000 courses have now been secured for delivery throughout 2022 for supply through both state and territory health departments and the PBS, with the option to procure additional courses if required.

This means that at least 1 million courses of Paxlovid will be made available to ensure at risk Australians have access to this treatment when they need it.

Paxlovid® is already available through the National Medical Stockpile (NMS)—Australia’s strategic reserve of supplies for national health emergencies. This path of access continues to remain available for supply to state and territory governments on request.

State and territory hospital systems provide complementary mechanisms for access where the prescriber considers treatment is clinically indicated but the patient is not eligible under the PBS.

The Government has provided Paxlovid and a range of other COVID-19 treatments to state and territory health departments via the NMS for use in people at risk.

The Government has also provided Paxlovid to Aboriginal Controlled Community Health Organisations and the Royal Flying Doctor Service for use in people at risk.

To date, the NMS has deployed 42,867 packs (courses) of Paxlovid.

Since 2013, the Coalition Government has approved more than 2,800 new and amended listings on the PBS. This is at an overall investment by Government of over $16.5 billion.

The Morrison Government’s commitment to ensuring Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid. 

This PBS listing has been recommended by the independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee.

 

Ministers: