Australia buys COVID treatment pills ahead of new drug approval

Nearly 80 percent of the population over 16 years of age in Australia have now had at least one shot and 56.9 percent are fully vaccinated.

Mr Hunt announced Monday that Australia had increased stockpiles of another treatment, sotrovimab, with 15,000 doses of the “critical breakthrough drug” that arrived in the country in recent days.

Sotrovimab was given TGA approval in August. It is delivered in hospitals through an IV.

“It does not prevent [COVID], but it lessens the effects,” said Mr Hunt.

“And it won’t do it in all cases, but in many cases it will mean the difference between hospitalization or no hospitalization, IC or no IC, and in some cases it will prevent the loss of life.”

Another treatment, remdesivir, has been available since mid-2020 to shorten recovery time for people hospitalized with severe COVID symptoms.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government had been closely monitoring developments in COVID-19 vaccines and treatments during the pandemic and wanted drugs like molnupiravir ready for use if they received TGA approval.

The TGA is considering registration for two more COVID treatments, as well as molnupiravir.

Nick Coatsworth, an infectious disease expert at ANU, said treatments were meant to help anyone who contracted COVID when the country reopened, whether vaccinated or unvaccinated.

“But in the short term, we would like to use it in unvaccinated people who did not have access to or were not eligible for sotrovimab. Then the use would probably also be extended to those who have been vaccinated, depending on the supply,” he said.

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dr. Krystal Evans, GlaxoSmithKline’s Australian medical leader for COVID Therapeutics, said the company expected global demand for treatments to increase as societies reopened. GSK is the maker of the sotrovimab.

“There will be an ongoing need for COVID therapies as Australia moves through the next phase,” she said.

“I think [it’s] very important for people with underlying health conditions to know that there are early treatment options available to them.

“If they were to contract COVID-19 and they were considered to be at increased risk, early treatment options are available.”

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