An additional 160,000 Australians are now able to access subsidised COVID-19 antiviral treatments after the federal government expanded eligibility criteria under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
There are two oral COVID-19 antiviral medicines approved for use in Australia and are available on the PBS – Lagevrio® and Paxlovid®.
From 1 April 2023, eligibility now includes:
- Anyone 70 years of age or older, regardless of risk factors and with or without symptoms
- People 60-69 years of age or older with 1 additional risk factor for developing severe disease
- People 50 years of age or older with 2 additional risk factors for developing severe disease or have had past COVID-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation
- First Nations people, 30 years of age or older and with 1 additional risk factor for developing severe disease or have had past COVID-19 infection resulting in hospitalisation
- Immunocompromised people over the age of 18
There’s a long list of risk factors and they include living in residential aged care, disability with several conditions, frailty, neurological problems such as having had a stroke, living with dementia or multiple sclerosis and others, chronic lung disease, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, kidney or liver damage, living remotely with poor access to high level healthcare and past severe COVID disease.
Who should NOT have antiviral COVID-19 treatments?
- A person who is pregnant or breastfeeding. Instead, they should stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations.
- A person with severe kidney or liver disease should not have Paxlovid® COVID-19 treatment. They should talk to their healthcare provider about alternative oral treatments.
COVID-19 treatments and fertility
If a person is prescribed the oral treatment Paxlovid® for COVID-19 and is also taking prescribed birth control ‘the pill’, they should use extra contraception as the treatment may affect how the pill works.
Also, it is recommended they use effective forms of contraception:
- during treatment and for 4 days after with Lagevrio®
- during treatment and for 7 days after with Paxlovid®.
Men should use contraception during and for 3 months after taking Lagevrio®.