Saturday, June 15, 2024

COVID-19 drug access spreads to pharmacies

Access to treatment for COVID-19 in the community has been widened, with dedicated pharmacists prescribers now able to prescribe antiviral medicines, the Ministry of Health announced.

A notice was published in the Gazette this week, adding medicines for treating COVID-19 to the schedule that can be prescribed by a dedicated pharmacists prescriber.

This will mean some pharmacists will be able to prescribe antiviral medicines for treating COVID-19, instead of needing to wait to see another prescriber in the team.

The decision to enable pharmacists to prescribe a specific medicine is independent from Medsafe’s decision to approve a medicine for use or Pharmac’s decision to fund a medicine

Clinical Chief Advisor Andi Shirtcliffe said: “Increasing the range of prescribers will improve access to these medicines for a wider range of communities and get timely treatment to more of the people who are at risk of severe illness.”

Medicines added to the pharmacist prescriber medicine list include nirmatrelvir with ritonavir (Paxlovid™) and molnupiravir (Lagevrio®), which are already being prescribed by other prescribers in New Zealand.

Both these medicines can be taken orally at home and are for people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have symptoms, and are at a higher risk of hospitalisation including Māori and Pacific peoples, those with complex health needs, the elderly and unvaccinated populations, and people with disabilities.

The medicines were added to the pharmacist prescriber medicine list after consultation with the sector, including the Pharmacy Council, which ran between 22 April and 22 May. Of the submissions received, more than 90% agreed with the proposed additions to the schedule.

A summary of the consultation will be published on the Ministry’s website soon.

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