Pharmac signs agreement for new drug to combat Covid-19

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Pharmac has negotiated the purchase of a new drug for the treatment and prevention of Covid-19.

Hospitals set up in preparation for Covid-19

Photo: Ministry of Health / Supplied

The government agency confirmed the agreement with pharmaceutical supplier Roche to purchase Ronapreve on Sunday, and said it expected the drug to be in the country by Christmas.

The drug mimics the natural antibodies that the immune system makes to fight the disease. It belongs to the class of medicines called monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs.

Also known as Regeneron (the name of the company that developed it with Roche) and REGEN-COV, it was used to treat former US president Donald Trump when he contracted Covid-19 last year.

Health Minister Andrew Little said it will help treat people with medium-to-severe Covid-19, especially those with compromised immune systems.

He said it reduces the severity of the virus and makes it less likely patients will pass it on to other people.

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Pharmac chief executive Sarah Fitt said getting vaccinated was by far the best line of defence against Covid-19. But: “It’s good to know New Zealand will have another treatment available for those who do become unwell”.

Ronapreve can be given to contacts of known cases, or used in the early asymptomatic stages of the illness, to prevent those who are especially vulnerable to Covid-19 becoming more unwell. This could potentially keep them out of hospital, Fitt said.

And, “it can actually be used in very sick patients in hospital intensive care.”

“The unprecedented nature of the pandemic, and the ongoing health risks posed by Covid-19, means Pharmac is continuing to seek out other treatments to be used to help those with Covid-19.

“To fund these other treatments, we’re using a dedicated budget allocated by Government to make sure New Zealand can access new Covid-19 medicines.”

Medsafe is currently assessing Ronapreve.

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