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New Zealand obtains new drug Pfizer for treatment of Covid

The government has purchased 60,000 courses of oral antiviral drugs from Pfizer to treat early Covid-19 infections, subject to Medsafe’s approval, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed.

It was a “major milestone” in the global fight against Covid-19, Ardern said during today’s post-Cabinet press conference with Chief Health Officer Dr Ashley Bloomfield.

“Today, I can report that Pharmac has signed an advance purchase agreement for 60,000 courses of Pfizer’s oral antiviral therapy, which is now subject to Medsafe for approval.”

It was the second antiviral purchased by New Zealand, after another agreement was signed in October.

Bloomfield said the drug Pfizer is a tablet and therefore can be taken in the community. It was very useful for people at high risk but not in need of hospital care.

“The bottom line here is that this is another option to help prevent people from really feeling bad or dying. But for now, the option which is, of course, available to everyone [who] is vaccinated. “

Ardern said that in addition to vaccinations, hospital treatments were already reducing the likelihood of people needing intensive care, with rates of intensive care in Auckland dropping from 5.7% of hospitalizations seen at the start of the pandemic. at 3%.

However, she said treatments were only part of the plan and other parts of the strategy had to be used to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

“Pfizer’s new antiviral has a window of three to five days from the onset of symptoms of Covid to be effective – most effective from three days on but still effective for up to five.”

Preventing people from contracting the virus in the first place through vaccination and public health measures was always the best way to prevent people from contracting the virus and the possibility of having to go to the hospital.

Ardern said the total number of cases in New Zealand was around 12,000 – the lowest of any OECD country.

She said it was the success of the government’s cautious approach.

“But every percentage point helps, which means every vaccination helps… if you haven’t had your first yet, be sure to talk to someone who has. ‘have your questions answered – this is the number one thing you can do to make sure you have a safe Christmas and summer for yourself and your loved ones. “

In a statement, Health Minister Andrew Little confirmed that New Zealand has obtained 60,000 courses of the Covid-19 oral antiviral tablet from Pfizer, which overseas is called Paxlovid.

Medsafe has previously said it “is closely monitoring developments in pharmaceuticals related to Covid-19 overseas, seeking expert advice and receiving regular updates from other drug regulatory counterparts.”

The pill, if taken at the start of a person’s Covid-19 infection, can prevent people with mild symptoms from getting very sick or dying.

It is similar to molnupiravir, another oral antiviral that the government had already pre-ordered 60,000 courses, although this deal is conditional on Medsafe’s approval.

Antivirals like this are not believed to be effective for patients who have been to the hospital before.

Paxlovid, three pills taken twice a day for five days, has been shown in studies to reduce hospital admissions by about 89% in early studies, with trials being stopped early because it would be unethical to continue to take giving a placebo to people with Covid-19 when this drug was shown to be so effective.

Little said the $ 175 million allocated by the government for drugs and supply chain costs and $ 300 million for the purchase of more Covid-19 treatments allowed Pharmac to “continue to guarantee rapid access to new and promising Covid drugs as soon as possible “.

“Both drugs are still under Medsafe for approval, but the trials look promising, and by ensuring access to both, we are doing everything possible to ensure that New Zealanders have drugs that are easy to administer and prevent most people who contract Covid-19 from being so sick that they have to go to the hospital.

He said vaccinations, the use of masks and contact tracing, including through the Tracer app, were still the best ways to stop the spread of Covid-19, but it was also important to ensure that there was a supply of medicine to treat those who fell ill.

Little said the drug was due for delivery to New Zealand in April, once approved by MedSafe.


On the Omicron variant, Bloomfield said there was “more speculation than fact.”

More will be known about the strain in about a week, he said.

Ardern said it was too early to say whether Omicron could affect future travel dates. Nothing had been changed, but if significant evidence was presented – for example around the effectiveness of the vaccine – then it would be examined.

It was inevitable that an Omicron suitcase would arrive at the border, as Delta had done. The key was to make sure he was treated at the border, Ardern said.

“It’s a when, not a if.”

On Omicron travel bans and why only African countries were on the list, Ardern said this was based on public health assessments and officials will receive an update later this week.

On calls for people to cancel their vacations for Covid reasons, Ardern said protections had been put in place.

“We are not asking people to stay at home. We are asking people to follow the rules.”

Ardern reiterated officials did not support calls for people to stay away from certain areas. These concerns explained why some areas were still in the red frame.

Bloomfield said the reason so much effort has been put into vaccination rates is to allow people to get back to normal and travel again.

This is also why unvaccinated people should return negative tests.

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