Coronavirus treatment: Millions of Australians to access Covid pills that usually cost $1,000 on PBS | Daily Mail Online

Health Minister Mark Butler says Australians over 70 who test positive to Covid-19 will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from Monday.

Access will also be expanded to people over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people over 30 with two or more risk factors.

Anyone 18 or over and immunocompromised may also be eligible.

Two antivirals are on the PBS – Lagevrio and Paxlovi – with the announcement on Sunday expanding access and lowering cost for many more Australians.

The pills normally cost more than $1,000, but will be available from Monday for $6.80 for concession card holders and around $40 for everyone else. 

The move comes with Australia’s Covid-19 death toll surpassing 10,200 and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese urging people to consider a fourth vaccine dose.

Australians over 70 who test positive to the virus will be able to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from Monday (pictured, pedestrians in Sydney)

Normally costing more than $1000, the pills will be available from Monday for $6.80 for concession card holders and about $40 for everyone else (pictured, a Covid-19 treatment pill)

‘Covid cases and hospitalisation numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants,’ Mr Butler said on Sunday.

‘These oral antivirals dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease particularly for older Australians and will help keep people out of hospital.’

The oral pills – Lagevrio and Paxlovid – were listed on the PBS in March and May of this year respectively after the treatments were granted provisional approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in January. 

More than 73,000 Australians have already benefited from the medicines.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee recommended the changes in response to the latest evidence on the effectiveness and safety of the medicines, current usage and the changing epidemiology of Covid-19.

Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help stop infection from becoming severe but need to be started early after testing positive.

Mr Butler says the former government bought hundreds of thousands of antiviral doses ‘that have been sitting on a shelf instead of being used to help people who are at risk’.

Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help stop infection from becoming severe but need to be started early after testing positive (pictured, queues outside a Sydney chemist)

More than 37,000 new infections and 77 deaths were reported across the country on Saturday with Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 now the dominant strains of the virus.

Almost 42,000 cases were also announced nationally on Friday, the third 40,000-plus day in a row.

The number of Australians hospitalised with the virus tops 4,000, up by more than 1,000 in the past fortnight. 

From Monday, Australians over 30 will be able to get a fourth Covid vaccine dose or second booster. 

HOW COVID ANTIVIRAL TREATMENTS WORK:

Lagevrio and Paxlovid are oral antiviral treatments which work by blocking the ability of the Covid-19 virus to multiply in the body.

The medication must be prescribed by an authorised prescriber like a general practitioner or a nurse practitioner. 

Oral treatment should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis of Covid-19 and within five days of symptoms to achieve the best result.

The capsules are taken twice a day for five days with the most common side effects including diarrhoea, nausea, and dizziness. 

Lagevrio has been prioritised for use in residential aged care facilities as a priority for older people early this year.

That is because Paxlovid is not safe to use with certain other medications, and should not be taken by people with severe kidney or liver disease.

The two active substances in the drug, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, which are given as separate tablets, must be taken together twice a day for five days.

An oral treatment is not intended as a substitute for vaccination against Covid-19, with vaccines considered the best protection against the virus. 

Source: Australian Department of Health 

Coronavirus treatment: Millions of Australians to access Covid pills that usually cost $1,000 on PBS

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