TGA approves two new COVID-19 medications amid Omicron case surge

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
VideoHealth Minister Greg Hunt joined Sunrise to explain how the medications work and who they are for.

COVID-positive Australians who are at risk of serious illness will soon have access to two breakthrough treatments in an attempt to keep them out of intensive care.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration has granted provisional approval to two products – Pfizer’s Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) and Lagevrio (molnupiravir) produced by Merck Sharp & Dohme.

The oral medications are the first to be approved for COVID-19 in Australia, and will be used in adults who are at “increased risk of progression to hospitalisation or death”.

The TGA has stressed that neither product is “intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19”.

Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC Radio the products were expected to arrive in coming weeks, after the government secured 500,000 courses of Paxlovid and 300,000 courses of Lagevrio.

Camera IconHealth Minister Greg Hunt said the courses of antiviral medication will begin arriving in Australia in the coming weeks. NCA NewsWire/ David Crosling Credit: News Corp Australia

“They will help people who are at increase risk of going from mild to moderate and deemed by medical professionals to have the risk of progression of more serious conditions,” Mr Hunt said.

“They are expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

“(They) will build on what we’re already doing through the intravenous or hospital treatments.”

The TGA said either medicine should be administered “as soon as possible” after a COVID-19 diagnosis, and within five days of symptom onset.

Both medicines are taken twice a day for five days.

“Lagevrio works by inhibiting replication of the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” a TGA statement said.

“Regarding Paxlovid, the nirmatrelvir component blocks the activity of a protease enzyme that the coronavirus needs in order to replicate. Nirmatrelvir is administered in combination with low-dose ritonavir to maintain plasma levels of nirmatrelvir for the duration of the treatment.”

The TGA says Lagevrio is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Sexually active women of child-bearing age and men should use contraception for three months after taking the treatment.

The same recommendations apply to Paxlovid.

Paxlovid must also not be used with a number of commonly used medicines, the TGA said.

The combination may lead to harmful increases in blood levels or reduce the activity of the COVID treatment.

Originally published as TGA approves two new Covid-19 medications amid Omicron case surge

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