1 Nov 2021

Covid-19 drug Ronapreve will help reduce risk of death in cases - expert

6:04 pm on 1 November 2021

A Covid-19 treatment the government is purchasing can help reduce the number of people dying from the virus, says an expert from the University of Otago.

Hospitals set up in preparation for Covid-19

Ronapreve is recommended to be used for those at higher risk of hospitalisation from Covid-19, an infectious diseases expert says. (file image) Photo: Ministry of Health / Supplied

Pharmac revealed yesterday it is set to subsidise Ronapreve, which is used for people in danger of becoming severely unwell.

Medsafe is currently assessing the drug, also known as Regeneron or REGEN-COV, which is expected to be in the country by Christmas.

University of Otago infectious diseases professor Kurt Krause told Morning Report it is a highly effective way of dealing with early infection and in preventing infection.

"It prevents 70 percent of the infections following exposure, 90 percent of the symptomatic infections and the mortality drop is 80 percent or higher."

The World Health Organisation recommendation was that use of Ronapreve should be reserved for people who were immunocompromised or at high risk of being hospitalised from Covid-19, Prof Krause said.

"So that would be people 65 and older, people with diabetes, people with cancer, people on immunosuppression, that kind of thing.

"Or if you actually are in the hospital and you're severely ill, but you don't have antibodies against Covid-19, then in that case it's also useful and that needs to be done early in the [infection].

"In fact, it's recommended that you start within 72 hours of your positive test if you're going to get the biggest result from its use."

The drug's effects are likely to last for about several weeks to a few months, but it would not be a replacement for vaccines, he said.

"I think it puts the country in a really good footing as we move from elimination to suppression.

"It means we have this as a treatment which can be brought out and it could be combined with vaccinations."

It could also be complementary to another drug that Medsafe is considering for the treatment of Covid-19, molnupiravir, he said.

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