Sunday, April 21, 2024

NZ follows Japan’s lead with new COVID drug

New Zealand has secured access to an important new COVID-19 drug that can save lives and cut time in hospital, Health Minister Andrew Little has announced.

“Earlier this month, we were one of the first countries to buy molnupiravir, an anti-viral drug showing promising potential at stopping people with mild-to-medium symptoms of COVID-19 needing to go to hospital,” Mr Little said.

“Today, I am very pleased that Pharmac has secured access to another important drug that could help treat people with medium-to-severe COVID-19, especially those with compromised immune systems.

He said Pharmac, the national drug-buying agency, had secured access to enough doses of the monoclonal antibody drug, Ronapreve, to be able to treat 5,300 people and expects to be able to buy more next year.

Ronapreve belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight off infections. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination

“The clinical advice is that it is a massive advance, because it reduces the severity of COVID-19 and decreases the risk of patients passing the virus on to other people,” the Minister said.

“That’s hugely important, not only because of the lives it could save directly, but also because it will take pressure off our hospitals, which means they can get on with treating people with other conditions.

“When we created the special COVID-19 budget, we expected Pharmac to act quickly and secure treatments for New Zealand, and that’s what it’s doing.”

The drug Ronapreve was approved for use in Japan – the first country to use the drug – on August 15 and on August 20, Britain’s therapeutic goods regulator also granted approval.

Mr Little said Ronapreve, along with molnupiravir and other drugs, formed part of the national armoury against the COVID-19 pandemic, protecting people and hospital services against its worst impacts.

“However, other actions are still just as important as they have ever been. Getting at least 90 per cent of people who can be vaccinated, and practical measures like wearing facemasks and social distancing are all part of the deal.”

“New Zealand has done exceptionally well at dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our infection and death rate is just a fraction of that in other countries because we’ve done what needed to be done, but we need to keep going,” he said.

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