Evidence building on COVID-19 antivirals

Oral antiviral drug treatments approved for use in Australia could reduce the severity and lethality of COVID-19, according to international research.

The results of studies in Israel and Hong Kong (yet to be published or peer-reviewed) suggest the antivirals could improve patient outcomes but are likely to be more useful for older patients.

Some antiviral drugs have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration after clinical trials.

They can be prescribed by GPs for suitable patients and are sold under brand names including Paxlovid and Lagevrio, which were analysed in the Israel and Hong Kong studies.

Antivirals are recommended for adults who do not require oxygen but have other risk factors or comorbidities, and are supposed to be taken within five days of symptoms arising.

They can be helpful for those at risk of severe illness or hospitalisation, Doherty Institute director Sharon Lewin says.

“Everyone who is high risk needs to have a plan with their GP for how they’re going to access antivirals should they become positive,” Professor Lewin told ABC.

The Hong Kong study found both Paxlovid and Lagevrio appeared to help reduce the severity of disease and likelihood of death, although Paxlovid appeared more effective.

The Israeli study analysed Paxlovid and found it of more benefit to people over 65, with no significant impact on younger people.

Victoria has meanwhile confirmed the end of its COVID-19 response unit, set up to oversee testing, contact tracing and isolation in the state in 2020.

Those responsibilities will return to the health department on July 1.

The state has entered its first winter without lockdown restrictions since the pandemic began.

Australia reported more than 23,000 new virus cases on Sunday, along with 30 virus-related deaths.


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