Jul 05, 2023

PAXLOVID® expands access to Australians through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme

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PAXLOVID is an oral treatment designed to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19

Starting July 1, 2023, PAXLOVID® (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets) will be more accessible to Australians aged 50 to 59 years with mild to moderate COVID-19 and one additional risk factor for developing severe disease. This expansion in eligibility criteria aims to provide greater access to PBS-subsidised PAXLOVID for those at higher risk of severe COVID-19.

PAXLOVID is an oral treatment designed to combat SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19. It contains nirmatrelvir, a 3CL protease inhibitor, making it the first oral antiviral medicine of its kind.

Earlier in April 2023, the eligibility criteria for PAXLOVID on the PBS were expanded to include individuals between 60 to 69 years with mild to moderate COVID-19 and one additional risk factor, reducing the previous requirement of two additional risk factors.

Pfizer Australia’s Medical Director, Dr. Krishan Thiru, emphasised that many Australians with COVID-19 are still being hospitalised, admitted to ICU, and, in unfortunate cases, not surviving, particularly those with risk factors for severe illness. The widening of the PBS eligibility criteria intends to offer more at-risk individuals access to PAXLOVID, allowing them to receive treatment at home.

The eligibility criteria for PAXLOVID on the PBS include:

  • People aged 70 years or older.
  • [From July 1, 2023] People aged 50 to 69 years with one additional risk factor for severe disease.
  • People aged 30 years or older identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander with one risk factor for severe disease.
  • People aged 18 years or older with moderate to severe immunocompromising,
  • People aged 18 years or older who have been previously hospitalised from COVID-19 disease, if subsequently reinfected.
  • Various factors contribute to an individual’s risk of severe illness, hospitalisation, and death from COVID-19, including age, existing health conditions, or ongoing treatments for other conditions. Additionally, living in remote communities or residential care may also make someone eligible for antiviral medicines. 

To determine eligibility for oral antiviral medicines, individuals can check the official government websites or consult with their healthcare provider.

Recent research by Pfizer revealed that three in five people were unsure of their eligibility for antiviral treatment if they were to test positive for COVID-19. Dr. Thiru has urged individuals to discuss with their healthcare professionals early on whether oral antiviral medicines are suitable for their health needs and to develop a plan in case of a positive COVID-19 test.

Moreover, Dr. Thiru stressed the importance of following COVID-safe behaviours, staying up to date with vaccinations according to government recommendations, and seeking medical advice promptly if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.

PAXLOVID is a prescription-only oral medicine taken twice-daily for five days. It is crucial to start treatment as soon as possible after a COVID-19 diagnosis and within five days of symptom onset.

With the expanded eligibility criteria, more Australians at higher risk of severe COVID-19 can benefit from PAXLOVID’s availability through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

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