New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to secure an agreement on the new covid-19 treatment molnupiravir.
Pharmac and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the deal this morning. Pharmac said the oral antiviral drug would be used to treat New Zealanders with mild to moderate Covid-19 symptoms.
The agreement with the supplier Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD) is conditional on the drug being approved by Medsafe. An initial delivery of 60,000 courses will be shipped to New Zealand after Medsafe approves the drug, Pharmacs CEO Sarah Fitt said in a statement.
“MSD recently announced experimental results showing that molnupiravir significantly reduced hospital admissions and deaths from Covid-19 significantly. Although these are preliminary results, they are very promising,” Fitt said.
Ardern said New Zealand was among the first countries in the world to sign an advanced purchase agreement for the drug.
“Antiviral drugs are an additional tool that the government is adding to our toolbox to combat Covid-19,” Ardern said.
“The most important thing people can do to prevent themselves, children and vulnerable people from getting covid is to get vaccinated. However, it is important that we have medication to help those who detect the virus to avoid having to in the hospital.
“We continue to use a stamp-out strategy. But 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.”
The Australian government announced last week that it had purchased 300,000 courses of the drug.
Fitt told Morning report one advantage of this medication is that it is a tablet, while many other treatments have to be given intravenously.
It has to be given as someone is just starting to get symptoms so one of the challenges would be to figure out how to target people at an early stage.
The 60,000 doses were the most they could get at this stage, she said.
Ardern said it was thanks to “speed and hard work” from the Pharmacs team that New Zealand was able to secure the treatment so quickly.
Fitt said Pharmac proactively engages global pharmaceutical companies to ensure access to treatments.
“We have changed the way we operate, using separate funding provided by the government to ensure that New Zealand can access new Covid-19 treatments,” she said.
“Covid-19 is a unique health crisis, which is why we do things differently.”
Pharmac was working to secure other Covid-19 treatments, Fitt said.
Ardern said she was hopeful that further announcements would come soon when Pharmacs negotiations ended.