Wellington: New Zealand has secured supplies of another medicine to treat Covid-19, Health Minister Andrew Little said on Monday Dec 6.
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, Xinhua news agency quoted Little as saying in a statement.
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, the Minister said.
Alongside vaccinations, hospital treatments are already reducing the likelihood of people needing ICU (intensive care unit) care, with the ICU rate in the largest city Auckland dropping to 3 per cent of hospitalizations, down from 5.7 per cent previously, he said.
“Molnupiravir works by introducing copying errors during replication, which means you are less likely to get a fully functioning virus,” the Minister said.
“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,” he added.
The government has made sure Pharmac can continue to secure early access to new and promising Covid medicines as soon as possible, with NZ$175 million ($118 million) allocated for medicines and supply-chain costs and another NZ$300 million available for purchasing more therapeutics, Little said.
The Pfizer anti-viral is expected to be delivered to New Zealand in April2022, once approved by MedSafe.
Other Covid-19 medicines secured by Pharmac are baricitinib, remdesivir, tocilizumab, and Ronapreve.
Money for all six medicines comes from the government’s Covid-19 fund, the Minister added.