COVID-19 antiviral treatments see increased interest in Mid West after expanded guidelines

Lachlan AllenGeraldton Guardian
Pharmacist Paul Buise said he has experienced an increase in calls about COVID antiviral treatments.
Camera IconPharmacist Paul Buise said he has experienced an increase in calls about COVID antiviral treatments. Credit: Geoff Vivian/The Geraldton Guardian

A Geraldton pharmacist says interest in COVID-19 antiviral treatments has increased in the past few weeks.

Eligibility was widened for the COVID-19 antiviral treatments on Monday, giving millions of Australians access to the potentially lifesaving medications.

The change means those aged 70 years or older, 50 years or older with two risk factors, Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people 30 years or older with two risk factors, or people aged 18 years and older with moderate to severe immunocompromised are eligible for the medication.

Pharmacy 194 owner Paul Buise said he had received many inquiries about the treatment in recent weeks.

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“In the early days, it was more for elderly patients or those who are severely immunocompromised,” he said.

“Previously it was a lot tighter and we weren’t seeing as many prescribed but now that the eligibility is widened, they’re encouraging pharmacies to ensure they’ve got stock so that if doctors prescribe it, we can dispense it.”

Paxlovid and Lagevrio are the two antiviral treatments which may help stop COVID-19 infection from becoming severe.

Mr Buise said the treatments were on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, which meant people could get a prescription from their local GP or a hospital respiratory centre.

“The patient’s obviously isolating, they’ve been diagnosed with COVID and then if their symptoms deteriorate, they’re encouraged to call the GP,” he said.

“They can then get access to a telehealth consult, the GP can assess their symptoms and if they’re worsening they can use an eScript, send that to their local pharmacy. We process it and then we deliver it to the house.”

While access has increased, Panaceum Medical’s Dr Ian Taylor said only a very small proportion of people in the community needed antivirals.

He urged those who felt unwell to talk to their doctor or contact the COVID helpline.

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