All Australians aged over 70 who test positive to COVID will be able to access antiviral medicines on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Access will also be expanded to people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease. Immunocompromised people over 18 may also be eligible.
COVID-19 can be very serious for adults in high-risk groups, even when they are fully vaccinated.
For these people, new oral antiviral treatments help keep people out of hospital, reducing the pressure on our health system, and can save lives.
More than 73,000 Australians have already benefited from these medicines.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended the changes in response to the latest evidence on the effectiveness and safety of the medicines, current usage data and the changing epidemiology of COVID-19.
Following PBAC’s advice, the Albanese Government has also expanded the criteria to include people who have a broader range of chronic respiratory issues.
There is also greater access for adults living with disability who have multiple medical conditions.
Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help to stop COVID-19 infection from becoming severe – but they need to be started early after testing positive.
If you are an older person, or an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, or live with chronic disease or disability that puts you are higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, please talk to your doctor now about your COVID-19 treatment options. Your doctor can help determine your exact eligibility.
Making a plan now will help save valuable time if you test positive for COVID-19.
Quotes for attribution to Minister Butler
“COVID cases and hospitalisation numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants.
“These oral antivirals dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease particularly for older Australians and will help keep people out of hospital.
“The former Morrison Government bought hundreds of thousands of doses of these medicines that have been sitting on a shelf instead of being used to help people who are at risk of severe illness. I’m pleased this will change, with millions more people now eligible for these treatments.
“Two antivirals are on the PBS meaning these remarkable treatments that normally cost more than $1000 will only be $6.80 for a concession card holder, and around $40 for everyone else.
“People can get antivirals after speaking to a doctor, but they need to act fast.
“Speak to your GP and make a plan for what you will do if you get COVID, so you can start taking antivirals as soon as possible after your positive result.”
Original content from NSW Health. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.
Nina Alvarez is a Content Producer for Healthcare Channel. Her interests include writing, particularly about the healthcare sector and the many ways it can improve to further benefit people from all walks of life.