New Zealand has approved another drug for Covid-19 treatment.

Health Minister Andrew Little on Sunday told Q+A Pharmac has secured access to Roche’s drug Ronapreve.

It comes after earlier this month, New Zealand made moves to purchase 60,000 courses of Merck’s Molnupiravir.

“We’ve now purchased the Molnupiravir drug which is used for those with sort of mild to moderate kind of Covid symptoms – 60,000 doses of that,” Little told Jack Tame.

“Pharmac has just approved Ronapreve which is a monoclonal antibody for those with more, kind of, severe symptoms.”

Pharmac, the national drug-buying agency, has secured access to enough doses of Ronapreve to be able to treat 5300 people and expects to be able to buy more next year.

In a statement, Pharmac said Ronapreve belongs to a class of medicines called monoclonal antibodies, or mAbs – the chemical names are casirivimab and imdevimab – which mimic the natural antibodies that the immune system makes to fight disease.

Ronapreve is currently being assessed by Medsafe.

“To fund these other treatments, we’re using a dedicated budget allocated by Government to make sure New Zealand can access new Covid-19 medicines,” Pharmac’s Chief Executive Sarah Fitt said.

“The unprecedented nature of the pandemic, and the ongoing health risks posed by Covid-19, means Pharmac is continuing to seek out other treatments to be used to help those with Covid-19.”

“And Pharmac have got a range of others that they’re currently considering as well,” Little added.

These drugs are used to treat people who have the virus.

“The impact of those, particularly Ronapreve, the impact of that on people has been dramatic in countries that have used it in terms of keeping people out of hospital, minimising those severe consequences for people with Covid-19,” Little said.

“So we want to make sure that we’ve got a range of therapeutic treatments available for people who do get infected – that’s part of the ongoing care, including community care for people with Covid.”

Following Q+A on Sunday, Little released a statement saying clinical advice is that the drug was a massive advance because it reduces the severity of Covid-19 and decreases the risk of patients passing the virus on to other people.

“That’s hugely important, not only because of the lives it could save directly, but also because it will take pressure off our hospitals, which means they can get on with treating people with other conditions.

“Ronapreve, along with Molnupiravir and other drugs, form part of our armoury against the Covid-19 pandemic, protecting people and hospital services against its worst impacts.”

However, Little continued the call for people to get vaccinated against Covid-19 – reiterating the target of 90 per cent across the country.

He also continued the call for wearing face masks and social distancing.

“New Zealand has done exceptionally well at dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. Our infection and death rate is just a fraction of that in other countries because we’ve done what needed to be done, but we need to keep going.”