Mark Butler: Millions will get PBS access to Covid-19 antivirals

Older and vulnerable Australians will soon have easier and cheaper access to potentially life-saving treatments for Covid-19.

Millions of Australians will soon have access to life-saving Covid-19 treatments as cases across the country soar.

Eligibility for antiviral treatment in the form of tablets or capsules will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme from Monday for all Australians over 70 who test positive.

Access will also be extended to people over the age of 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease.

Immunocompromised adults over the age of 18 may also be eligible.

This comes just days after adults over 30 became eligible for a fourth Covid-19 vaccine, and a second booster is recommended for all adults over 50.

Under the change, treatment that costs more than $1,000 otherwise for two antivirals will cost just $6.80 for benefit card holders and $40 for everyone else eligible for treatment.

Health Minister Mark Butler said that with the rise in Covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country, treatment will go a long way in preventing vulnerable Australians from being admitted to hospitals.

“These oral antivirals significantly reduce the risk of severe illness, especially for older Australians, and keep people from going to hospitals,” Mr Butler said.

“The former Morrison government bought hundreds of thousands of doses of these drugs that were on the shelf instead of being used to help people who were at risk of serious illness. I’m glad that will change.”

Mr Butler said Australians eligible for the change should urgently speak with their GP to put in place a plan in case they get Covid.

“People can get antivirals after talking to a doctor, but they need to act first,” Mr. Butler said.

“Talk 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 a positive result.”

Originally published as Health Minister Announces Millions of People Will Get PBS Access to Covid-19 Antivirals