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New oral COVID-19 treatment on PBS


Media event date:

April 10, 2022

Date published:

April 11, 2022

Type of support:

Press release


General public

From May 1, the second oral, prescription-only COVID-19 treatment will be available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for Australians at high risk of developing serious illness.

Paxlovid® (nirmatrelvir + ritonavir) is an oral antiviral medication that can be used by patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of developing severe disease. This medication will help reduce the need for hospitalization.

Adults who have mild to moderate COVID-19 – which is confirmed by PCR or rapid antigen test and verified by the prescribing physician or nurse practitioner – and who can start treatment within five days of onset of symptoms, may be prescribed Paxlovid® if:

  • they are 65 or older, with two other risk factors for severe disease (as age is a risk factor, patients aged 75 or older need only have one other risk factor )
  • they are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent and are 50 years of age or older and have two other risk factors for serious illness, or
  • they are moderately to severely immunocompromised.

Endline data from all high-risk patients enrolled in an Evaluation of Protease Inhibition for COVID-19 in High-Risk Patients (EPIC-HR) study showed that Paxlovid® reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 88% when patients were treated within five days of the onset of symptoms.

Paxlovid®’s PBS listing means that eligible Australians can access this medicine from their local community pharmacy with a prescription from their doctor or nurse practitioner.

Patients will only pay a maximum of $42.50 per script, or as little as $6.80 with a concession card.

This announcement follows the listing of Lagevrio® (molnupiravir) on the PBS from March 1, 2022. Approximately 5,000 patients have already received Lagevrio® through the PBS.

These PBS listings support Australia’s National Transition Plan COVID-19 response.

It is important that patients continue to follow local health advice to self-isolate if they test positive for COVID-19. They are recommended to use telehealth to see their doctor and ask their pharmacy to arrange delivery of Paxlovid® to their home, if needed.

In 2021, the Australian government secured 500,000 courses from Paxlovid®. A further 500,000 courses have now been secured for delivery throughout 2022 to be provided by state and territory health departments and PBS, with the ability to procure additional courses as needed.

This means that at least 1 million courses of Paxlovid will be made available to ensure that at-risk Australians have access to this treatment when they need it.

Paxlovid® is already available through the National Medical Stockpile (NMS), Australia’s strategic reserve of supplies for national health emergencies. This pathway continues to be available to be provided to state and territory governments upon request.

State and territory hospital systems provide additional access mechanisms when the prescriber considers the treatment to be clinically indicated but the patient is not eligible for PBS.

The government has provided Paxlovid and a range of other COVID-19 treatments to state and territory health departments through the NMS for use in those at risk.

The government also provided Paxlovid to Aboriginal-controlled community health organizations and the Royal Flying Doctor Service for use in people at risk.

To date, the NMS has deployed 42,867 Paxlovid packs (courses).

Since 2013, the coalition government has approved more than 2,800 new and changed listings on the PBS. This is an overall government investment of over $16.5 billion.

The Morrison government’s commitment to ensuring Australians can access affordable medicines, when they need them, remains rock solid.

This PBS list was recommended by the Independent Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Board.