From tomorrow, all Australians aged over 70 who test positive to COVID-19 will be able to access potentially lifesaving antiviral treatments on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
Access will also be expanded to people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people aged over 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease.
Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler said COVID-19 could be very serious for adults in high-risk groups, even when they are fully vaccinated.
“COVID cases and hospitalisation numbers are climbing, particularly with the new variants,” said Minister Butler.
“These oral antivirals dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease particularly for older Australians and will help keep people out of hospital.”
He said more than 73,000 Australians had already benefited from these medicines.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) recommended the changes in response to the latest evidence on the effectiveness and safety of the medicines, current usage data and the changing epidemiology of COVID-19.
Following PBAC’s advice, the Government has also expanded the criteria to include people who have a broader range of chronic respiratory issues.
“There is also greater access for adults living with disability who have multiple medical conditions,” the Minister said.
“Two antivirals are on the PBS meaning these remarkable treatments that normally cost more than $1,000 will only be $6.80 for a concession card holder, and around $40 for everyone else.
“People can get antivirals after speaking to a doctor, but they need to act fast.
“Speak to your GP and make a plan for what you will do if you get COVID, so you can start taking antivirals as soon as possible after your positive result,” Mr Butler said.
Antiviral treatments, taken as a tablet or capsule, help to stop COVID-19 infection from becoming severe – but they need to be started early after testing positive, the Minister said.
Find out more about COVID-19 treatments.