NZ secures another Covid-19 medicine

Health Minister Andrew Little. Photo: RNZ.

New Zealand has secured another Covid-19 medicine, with some supplies expected this month.

The addition of another drug to the suite of Covid-19 medicines available in New Zealand is good news for patients and for the health system, the Government says.

“Preventing people from getting Covid-19 in the first place, through vaccinations, social distancing and mask-wearing, is still the best protection for people and for keeping the health system free for those who need it,” says Health Minister Andrew Little.

“But we need medicines for those who do get sick, which is why I am very pleased that the national pharmaceuticals-buying agency Pharmac has secured supplies of another drug shown to work against the Covid-19 virus.

“Baricitinib is the fifth drug Pharmac has secured, and sits alongside remdesivir, tocilizumab, molnupiravir and Ronapreve as treatments doctors can turn to for people with a range of Covid-19 symptoms.

“Like tocilizumab, baricitinib can be used to treat patients who are very sick, as it reduces the severity of symptoms and cuts time in hospital and reduces the likelihood of death.

“Pharmac expects to receive 500 doses of baricitinib this month, which is important because there is a global shortage of tocilizumab and this gives clinicians another option.”

Money for all five medicines will come from the Government’s Covid-19 fund. Baricitinib has yet to be approved by Medsafe for use against Covid-19, but clinicians will be able to use it straight away under Section 25 of the Medicines Act.

Baricitinib, sold under the brand name Olumiant among others, is a drug for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis in adults.

According to the Covid-19 Science Updates from the Ministry of Health, Baricitinib is an oral janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

JAK is an enzyme that is involved in the inflammatory and immune response and therefore baricitinib is another type of anti-inflammatory medicine.

A document published in July this year said Baricitinib has been shown to reduce mortality and the need for mechanical ventilation from Covid-19 among those who are hospitalised and requiring supplemental oxygen and/or non-mechanical ventilation. IDSA and NIH suggest use of baricitinib with remdesivir.

Read more here.




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