New Zealand is amongst the first countries in the world to sign an advanced purchase agreement for the new COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment molnupiravir from pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced today.
The advanced purchase agreement secures an initial supply of 60,000 courses of the drug.
“Antiviral medicines are an additional tool the Government is adding to our toolbox to fight COVID-19,” Jacinda Ardern said.
“The most important thing people can do to prevent themselves, children and vulnerable people getting COVID is to get vaccinated. However, it’s important we have medicines to help those who pick up the virus to avoid having to go to hospital.
“We are continuing to use a stamp it out strategy. But this purchase of 60,000 courses is based on the same population basis as the likes of Australia and Singapore, and is not an assumption about the level of COVID we may have in the future.
“Antiviral medicines can play a role in reducing pressure on our hospitals and ICU departments as well as supporting community care in the future. Interim trials have shown molnupiravir greatly reduces hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19.
“Pharmac has negotiated an advanced purchase agreement for molnupiravir, and New Zealand will begin receiving it as soon as it is thoroughly assessed and approved by Medsafe.
“New Zealand is among the first few countries in the world to announce a purchase agreement for molnupiravir, and it’s thanks to the speed and hard work of the team at Pharmac that we have been able to secure this treatment so quickly.
“Pharmac has been commissioned by us to secure early access to new COVID-19 treatments, using funding from the Government’s COVID-19 response and recovery fund.
“I am hopeful that there will be further announcements to come in the future as their negotiations conclude.
“This purchase ensures we have molnupiravir to treat those with mild to moderate COVID-19, but I ask all New Zealanders to get vaccinated as the best protection from the virus and so we can regain our way of life with as few restrictions as possible,” Jacinda Ardern said.