New Zealand signs agreement to purchase new treatment for Covid-19
New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to strike a deal for 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 subject to the approval of the drug by Medsafe. An initial supply of 60,000 courses will be sent to New Zealand after the drug is approved by Medsafe, Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said in a statement.
“MSD recently announced test results showing molnupiravir dramatically reducing hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19. Although these are interim results, they are very promising,” Fitt said.
Ardern said New Zealand was among the first countries in the world to sign an early purchase agreement for the drug.
“Antiviral drugs are an additional tool that the government is adding to our toolkit to fight Covid-19,” Ardern said.
“The most important thing that people can do to prevent themselves, children and vulnerable people from contracting Covid, is to get vaccinated. However, it is important that we have medicines to help those who catch the virus avoid having to go to the hospital.
“We continue to use an eradication strategy. But this purchase of 60,000 courses is based on the same population base as Australia and Singapore, and is not a guess on the level of Covid we might have in the future. “
The Australian government announced last week that it had purchased 300,000 courses of the drug.
Ardern said it was thanks to the “speed and hard work” of the Pharmac team that New Zealand was able to get the treatment so quickly.
Fitt said Pharmac is proactively engaging global pharmaceutical companies to secure access to treatment.
“We have changed the way we operate, using segregated funds allocated by the government, to make sure New Zealand can access new Covid-19 treatments,” she said.
“Covid-19 is a unique health crisis and for this reason we are doing things differently. “
Pharmac was working on securing other Covid-19 treatments, Fitt said.
Ardern said she hoped there would be further announcements as soon as Pharmac’s negotiations were concluded.