Oral Covid pills coming to Australia 'in weeks' – what you need to know

·3-min read

The first two oral treatments for Covid-19 have been approved for use in Australia.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced on Thursday morning it has granted provisional approval to the Pfizer-made Paxlovid, along with Lagevrio, made by pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme.

The pills will be used by adults with Covid who do not require oxygen but are at risk of hospitalisation or death.

Neither are substitutes for the Covid vaccine, the country's medical regulator warned.

So when will the anti-viral treatments be available and who is eligible? Yahoo News Australia breaks down your top questions.

People queue at a walk-in COVID-19 testing site at in Melbourne as Covid pills for treatment of the virus get approved. Source: AAP
The Covid pills will be used by adults with the virus who do not require oxygen, but are at risk of hospitalisation or death. Source: AAP

What will the Covid pills do?

Clinical trials show Lagevrio and Paxlovid are effective in treating people with mild to moderate Covid who have a high risk of progressing to severe disease, according to Health Minister Greg Hunt.

"Either medicine should be administered as soon as possible after diagnosis of Covid-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms," the TGA said in a press release.

They should be taken twice a day for five days and are designed to interfere with the virus’s ability to multiply.

They are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, or those trying to get pregnant. Paxlovid cannot be used in correlation with a number of other drugs, the TGA said.

Patients with severely reduced kidney or liver function also cannot take Paxlovid.

A pharmacist checks boxes containing Paxlovid, a Covid-19 treatment pill developed by U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. Source: AAP
The TGA announced on Thursday it has granted provisional approval to the Pfizer-made Paxlovid, along with Lagevrio. Source: AAP

Who is eligible?

The government is working to target access to those most vulnerable, especially the elderly and those in aged care, Mr Hunt said on Thursday.

"As with other TGA approved Covid-19 treatments not everyone who contracts Covid-19 will require access to Lagevrio and Paxlovid, and these treatments will be of most benefit for people most at risk of severe disease and through the oversight from a healthcare professional," he said.

"We are working to target access to those most vulnerable including the elderly and those in aged care through the National Medical Stockpile (NMS), with the view to transition to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) arrangements as supply continues to grow."

When will they be available?

The government has secured 300,000 treatment courses of Lagevrio and 500,000 courses of Paxlovid to be supplied throughout the year.

Mr Hunt said both medicines should be arriving on Australian shores in the coming weeks.

"The first deliveries will be in the coming weeks," he told Channel Nine on Thursday morning.

"All up over the course of the year we have 800,000 of these courses of treatment.

"It helps to protect. It helps prevent graduation to serious illness and it's a compliment to the vaccinations."

A supplied image shows oral COVID-19 antiviral treatment pill LAGEVRIO. Source: AAP
The medicine should be taken twice a day for five days and are designed to interfere with the virus’ ability to multiply. Lagevrio is pictured. Source: AAP

Where can I get them?

The oral anti-viral treatments require a prescription from a doctor who is aware of the patient’s history and what other medications they are taking.

How much will they cost?

Mr Hunt said the drugs will be free and available subject to restriction by a general practice.

He said the process will be "simple and easy".

What other countries are using them?

Both oral treatments have already been approved for use by the US and UK health authorities.

With AAP

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