Medicare will cover a long consultation by a GP for the purpose of prescribing COVID-19 antivirals, with the change coming into effect from next week.
The new temporary Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) items will cover a longer consultation by phone to ensure antivirals are safely prescribed by doctors and ensure as many people as possible can access these treatments.
“These antiviral medicines dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease, particularly for older Australians, and will help keep people out of hospital,” Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler, said.
“Two antivirals are on the PBS meaning these treatments that normally cost more than $1000 will only be $6.80 for a concession card holder, and around $40 for everyone else.
“People can get antivirals by a telehealth video or phone consultation with a doctor, but they need to act fast.”
Millions of Australians are now eligible to access antivirals on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS), but they need to start taking the medication within five days of symptoms.
Following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis, eligible people can have a telephone or video consultation with a doctor to obtain a prescription for antivirals.
“My priority is getting people access to these remarkable antiviral treatments,” Butler said.
“Doctors have told me it will be easier to get antivirals prescribed if they have access to this telehealth measure, and that is why the Government has acted today.
“As the pandemic continues to evolve and move into different phases, the Government’s response will change accordingly.
“Our priority remains getting people vaccinated, along with access to the treatments they need to stay out of hospital.
“If you haven’t had your third or fourth dose, please book a free COVID-19 vaccine appointment today.”
Thousands of Australians have already received new antiviral treatments, with prescriptions doubling in the first week of July to around 14,000 per week.
The details of the MBS items are available here.
The items will remain on the MBS until October 31, 2022.