Top 3 questions – COVID-19 oral treatments

Professor Michael Kidd, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, discusses the latest information regarding oral treatments for COVID-19.

11:16

Hello, my name is Professor Michael Kidd. I’m Deputy Chief Medical Officer with the Australian Government, Department of Health. I’m speaking to you today from Ngunnawal country, and I’d like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land where both you and I are today and acknowledge the Elders past and present.

Today, I’m going to talk to you about a very important topic, about the treatments which are available for people who are diagnosed with COVID-19, people who are at increased risk of becoming seriously unwell, ending up in hospital or even at risk of dying from COVID-19, and I want you to do a favour for me. I want you to please share this video with your family members, with your friends. If you’re watching on Facebook, please share this on Facebook. If you’re watching on Twitter, please share this with your followers on Twitter as well. It’s very important that as many people who are eligible for these treatments as possible get access to these treatments because these treatments are going to help to save lives. And by sharing this information with your family, and your friends, and your contacts, you may be directly involved in saving the life of someone who is infected with COVID-19.

So your top three questions about these new treatments. The first one is, “What are the different treatments available to treat COVID-19?” So we currently have in Australia two oral treatments available. These are taken as capsules or as tablets. And the brand names of these two treatments are Lagevrio - you may have heard about this one, it’s also called molnupiravir. And the second one is called Paxlovid. Lagevrio is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme which means that a GP can write a prescription and a community pharmacist can dispense the medicine to people who need it. And Lagevrio is a five-day course of tablets taken twice a day. Paxlovid is not currently available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and it’s available through state and territory health authorities. So if your GP or your other treating health professional feels that you may benefit from Paxlovid, they’ll need to work with the local, state or territory health department to get access to that medicine for you. We also have some intravenous treatments available for tackling COVID-19. The most commonly used of these treatments is called sotrovimab. And this is available through state and territory health authorities for eligible patients and you’d need to be referred by your treating GP or other health professional to the state and health authorities in order to get access to Paxlovid.You’d need to travel to hospital, most likely, to get that infusion.

So the second question that you’ve got is,  “Who will benefit most from these COVID-19 treatments?” And this is really important. The people who will benefit most are the people who are most likely to become seriously unwell if infected with COVID-19. And so, use of these treatments is currently restricted to the people who are most at risk of becoming seriously unwell. This includes people who are aged 65 years and over who have two or more other risk factors - I’ll tell you about the risk factors in a moment - people who are aged 75 years and over who have one other risk factor, people who are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, who are aged 50 years and over with two or more risk factors, and people who are immune-compromised and who have an immune system which is not able to effectively mount a protective response against COVID-19. So I’ll just go through the risk factors for these treatments. And I need to refer to these 'cause there are a few of them. The risk factors are people who have received less than two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, so people who have had either one dose of a vaccine or no doses of a vaccine, - these people are not protected by vaccination - people who are living in residential aged care or a disability care facility, people who have a neurological condition, such as dementia or people who have had a stroke, people who have respiratory disease including chronic obstructive airways disease, people with congestive heart failure, people with moderate or severe asthma, people with bronchiectasis, people who have obesity, people who have diabetes, either type 1 or type 2, requiring medication, people with kidney failure or with cirrhosis, or liver failure These are all people who are at increased risk if aged 65 and over, or if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander aged 50 and over, and if they contract COVID-19, The people who are immune compromised it's important to know as well. This includes anyone who has a blood cancer, for example leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma. People who have had a transplant, an organ transplant kidney transplant, heart transplant, or other transplants. People who are immune compromised due to HIV AIDS infection and people who are having therapies which affect the immune system. This includes chemotherapy or radiotherapy for cancers, people on high dose steroid therapy, and people who are receiving immunosuppressant medication of any sort. It also includes people with high risk conditions, including down syndrome, cerebral palsy, congenital heart disease, thalassemia, sickle cell disease and other haemoglobinopathies And it includes people with severe intellectual or physical disabilities, requiring residential care. So, they're the people who are eligible for these treatments.

The third question is about access. "How do I actually get access to these COVID-19 treatments?" So, if you belong to any of those risk categories, if you're 65 and over, if you're 50 and over, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, or those disabilities that I mentioned, if you're diagnosed with COVID-19, either on a Rapid Antigen Test or a PCR Test it's very important that you reach out to your general practitioner and say, I've been diagnosed with COVID-19 I believe I may be eligible for one of the treatments against COVID-19, and your GP will do an assessment, your GP may need to repeat a Rapid Antigen Test just to confirm the diagnosis and may either prescribe Lagevrio, Molnupiravir for you, or may contact your state or territory health department about getting access to Paxlovid or to one of the other treatments for you through the Health Department. If you're having trouble getting into contact with your GP, you can call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080 and they will provide you with support and advice on getting access to these treatments. These treatments need to commence within five days of being diagnosed with COVID-19 or within five days of starting to develop symptoms of COVID-19, but the earlier people can commence these treatments, the better the long-term outcome. So, if you're infected with COVID-19 or one of your friends or family members, or other loved ones is infected and they fall into these at risk categories, please arrange a consultation today, about getting access to these treatments for COVID-19. A reminder that these treatments do not replace the importance of vaccination. The importance of that initial two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, and the booster dose, and for those who are eligible, the new Winter booster doses, which have commenced this week, for people who are at high risk of becoming seriously unwell from COVID-19. And a reminder, this week there are nearly 500,000 people diagnosed with active COVID-19 in Australia and I just wanted to remind you about the symptoms which may indicate that you've got COVID-19. This includes fever of 38 degrees or more, chills, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, nasal congestion or a runny nose, headache, muscle or body aches and pains, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of taste and loss of smell. Any one of these symptoms could indicate that you currently are infected with COVID-19 and so, very important if you do have any of those symptoms or one of your family members has those symptoms, to please get tested for COVID-19. Rapid Antigen Tests are very widely available and can be purchased through pharmacies and through supermarkets, right across the country.

So that's my Top 3 for today. As I requested, please share this information with your family, your friends your contacts on social media, so that we can make sure that everybody who is eligible, for getting access to these new treatments against COVID-19, gets the treatments and hopefully that will mean we'll see a reduction in people being hospitalise and a reduction in the death toll from COVID-19 in our country. Thanks for your help Thanks for taking part in today's Top 3. Look forward to seeing you again, next week.

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  1. What are the different treatments available for COVID-19?
  2. Who will benefit most from COVID-19 treatments?
  3. How do I get COVID-19 treatments?
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