Government must buy Covid treatments now

News from Merck that their antiviral pill, Molnupiravir, reduces the chances that patients newly diagnosed with Covid-19 will be hospitalised by about 50 per cent is incredibly encouraging and should prompt the New Zealand Government to urgently contract for this drug and other next generation Covid treatments, National’s Covid-19 spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“There are a range of next-generation game changing Covid treatments being developed like Molnupiravir, Ronapreve and Sotrovimab but New Zealand is falling behind other countries in securing supplies of these exciting treatments. The United States has committed to purchasing 1.7 million doses of Molnupiravir alone should it receive FDA approval.

“These are treatments for people who have already got Covid-19 or who are showing symptoms. Our first line of defence is of course vaccination but there is no doubt that New Zealand will want to access these treatments, which are increasingly being approved by regulators worldwide.

“A monoclonal antibody treatment called Ronapreve has been approved for use in the United Kingdom and is licensed for emergency use in more than 20 countries, including the US, European Union, Canada, Japan, and Switzerland.

“New Zealand has not purchased any while the EU has bought 55,000 doses.”

Kurt Krause, a Professor at the University of Otago, says Ronapreve ‘is just a game changer ... it’s extremely important that we acquire this as soon as possible’.

“The EU and the US have authorised Sotrovimab to be used in adults and children aged over 12 with mild to moderate Covid-19. The EU has bought 22,000 doses while Australia has bought 7700 doses. New Zealand has not bought any.

“The approach many countries are taking is to enter into advance purchase contracts with treatment manufacturers subject to regulatory approval. This means when approved the countries have quick access to the treatments.

“It is inexcusable that New Zealand is not doing exactly the same.

“National’s comprehensive Covid-19 Opening Up plan proposed the establishment of a dedicated and ring-fenced Covid-19 Treatment Fund from the Covid-19 Response Fund, and for Pharmac to be tasked with negotiating advance purchase agreements with a variety of manufacturers for next-generation treatments.

“The Government should get on with it. These treatments are potential game-changers and the last thing we want is for New Zealanders to get sick with Covid-19 and not have access to exciting new treatment options.”

You can read Opening Up: National’s plan to tackle COVID-19, end lockdowns and reopen to the world here.