Tue. Aug 9th, 2022

The Ministry of Health has announced 60 new community cases of Covid-19 today along with updates on the positive case that traveled through Northland plus MIQ changes for Hamilton. Video / NZ Herald

New Zealand has added another tool to the toolbox to combat Covid-19 and is one of the first countries in the world to sign an advanced purchase agreement for a new Covid-19 treatment pill.

Molnupiravir is an oral antiviral therapy and early trials have shown that it greatly reduces hospitalizations and deaths due to Covid-19.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the agreement ensures an initial delivery of 60,000 courses of molnupiravir.

Merck says its experimental pill for people sick with COVID-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half.  Photo / Merck & Co.  via AP
Merck says its experimental pill for people sick with COVID-19 reduced hospitalizations and deaths by half. Photo / Merck & Co. via AP

She said it is important to have medication to “help those who catch the virus to avoid having to go to the hospital”.

While Ardern continues to use a stamp-it-out strategy, she said this purchase is not an assumption.

“This purchase of 60,000 courses is based on the same population base as Australia and Singapore, and is not an assumption about the level of Covid we may have in the future.”

Pharmac has negotiated an advanced purchase agreement and New Zealand will receive molnupiravir once it has been reviewed and approved by Medsafe.

Drug manufacturer Merck and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said early results showed that patients who received molnupiravir within five days of discovering Covid symptoms had about half of hospitalization and death as those who received a dummy pill. .

The study tracked 775 adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 who were considered at high risk for serious illnesses due to health problems such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease. The results have not been reviewed by external experts, the usual procedure for examination of new medical research.

Among the patients taking molnupiravir, 7.3 percent were either hospitalized or died at the end of 30 days, compared with 14.1 percent of those who received the drug. After this period, there were no deaths among those who received the drug, compared with eight in the placebo group, according to Merck.

Molnupiravir will be able to treat people with mild to moderate Covid-19, but Ardern is still asking all New Zealanders to get vaccinated.

“This purchase ensures that we have molnupiravir to treat them with mild to moderate Covid-19, but I ask all New Zealanders to be vaccinated as the best protection against the virus so that we can regain our lifestyle with as few restrictions as possible. ” she said.

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