Millions to gain access to Covid treatments

Eligibility for antiviral treatments – taken as a tablet or capsule – will be added to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme from Monday for all Australians aged over 70 who test positive. Access will also be expanded to people aged over 50 with two or more risk factors for severe disease, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 30 with two or more risk factors for severe disease. Immunocompromised adults aged over 18 may also be eligible. It comes days after adults over 30 became eligible for a fourth Covid-19 vaccine, with the second booster recommended for all adults over 50. Under the change, the treatment – which costs more than $1000 otherwise for the two antivirals – will cost concession card holders just $6.80, and everyone else eligible $40.Health Minister Mark Butler said given Covid-19 cases and hospitalisation numbers were climbing across the country, the treatments would go a long way in keeping vulnerable Australians out of hospital. “These oral antivirals dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease, particularly for older Australians and will keep people out of hospital,” Mr Butler said. “The former Morrison government bought hundreds of thousands of doses of these medicines that have been sitting on a shelf instead of being used to help people who are at risk of serious illness. I’m pleased this will change.”Mr Butler said Australians eligible under the change should speak to their GP urgently to enact a plan for if they get Covid. “People can get antivirals after speaking to a doctor, but they need to act first,” Mr Butler said. “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.”

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