betty July 18, 2022

SINGAPORE – Health Minister Ong Ye Kung said on July 5 that all polyclinics and more primary care clinics here can now prescribe oral antiviral drugs to eligible Covid-19 patients.

This is to ensure that most people who have contracted Covid-19 can be treated outside of hospitals, even as coronavirus cases rise, driven by the latest Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

These oral tablets are now available at all the polyclinics in Singapore as well as at more than 103 Public Health Preparedness Clinics (PHPCs).

Elsewhere, Australia has just widened access to these oral antiviral drugs from July 11 so that more people, including all Australians aged over 70 who test positive for Covid-19, can access them.

The Straits Times answers some questions you may have about these drugs:

Q: Which oral antiviral drugs against Covid-19 do we get here?

A: Singapore’s Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has authorised the emergency use of two oral treatments for Covid-19.

The first is Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which is a combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets. HSA approved it under the Pandemic Special Access Route on Jan 31 and by March 24, it was available at three polyclinics and 20 PHPCs.

The second one is molnupiravir, which has the brand name Lagevrio and is developed by MSD – known as Merck in the United States. HSA gave the authorisation on April 19.

Both oral antivirals help to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death.

Q: Who is eligible for these drugs?

A: The oral treatments are meant for those aged 18 and above who have tested positive for Covid-19, have mild to moderate symptoms and are at high risk of becoming very sick. These include people who are immunosuppressed, have risk factors such as heart failure or diabetes, or are fighting a cancer.

These oral antiviral tablets are available only via prescription. Treatment must be started within five days of the onset of Covid-19 symptoms – the earlier, the better.

Paxlovid is given as a course of three tablets (two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir), to be taken twice a day for five days.

Treatment with Lagevrio – or molnupiravir – requires that you take four tablets twice a day, for five days.