More than 400 pharmacies around the motu can today start supplying medicines to eligible people with COVID-19 who are at a higher risk of becoming very sick, without needing a prescription.

“We’ve reclassified two COVID-19 medicines, Paxlovid and Lagevrio, from prescription-only to restricted or pharmacist-only medicines to enable this new initiative,” COVID-19 Care in the Community clinical advisor Dr Joe Bourne said today.

“It will significantly boost access to COVID-19 medicines for people with COVID-19 who meet Pharmac’s criteria and will be offered to all pharmacies in coming weeks.

“People will still require a clinical assessment and these medicines may not be appropriate for everyone, even if they meet Pharmac’s eligibility criteria.

“This is about easier and timely access to COVID-19 medicines that have been proven to reduce hospitalisations for those most at risk of severe disease, and will also help ease pressure on our health system.

“Please don’t all rush to contact your pharmacy at once and the same applies for seeking advance scripts.

“Earlier this month, Pharmac further widened its eligibility criteria to these medicines, meaning about 10 percent of people may be eligible if they get COVID-19. Since then, prescribing rates have lifted.

“If you meet the eligibility criteria but don’t currently have COVID-19, you can get an advance prescription for these medicines, if your health care provider deems you suitable after a clinical assessment. This is to provide assurance to those at high risk of severe disease that they will be able to easily access these medicines if and when needed, although they won’t be dispensed until the person gets COVID-19.

“Reporting a positive RAT is the best way to let your GP/Kaupapa Māori provider know that you have COVID-19 and may need attention from them, especially if you are over 65 and Māori/Pasifika, or otherwise older than 75 years,” Dr Bourne said.

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