Australia approves first virus treatment

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has granted provisional approval to a first treatment option for COVID-19 in Australia.

Remdesivir was originally developed as a drug for ebola and has been approved for use in adults and adolescents with severe symptoms of the virus who have been hospitalised.

“Remdesivir is the most promising treatment option so far to reduce hospitalisation time for those suffering from severe coronavirus infections,” the agency said in a statement.

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“Remdesivir offers the potential to reduce the strain on Australia’s health care system. By reducing recovery times patients will be able to leave hospital earlier, freeing beds for those in need.

“Remdesivir will not be available to Australians unless they are severely unwell, requiring oxygen or high level support to breathe, and in hospital care.”

However the TGA warns that while the news is a “major milestone” in the battle against the pandemic, the drug has not been proved to prevent infections or help in milder cases.

The drug has recently been approved in the European Union, Japan, and Singapore.

The agency said international bodies shared their view of the drug at an early stage and the decision was made within two weeks.

The provisional approval will last for a maximum of six years and could provide “substantial benefit to Australian patients.”

The decision comes after the EU’s executive arm cleared the drug — which was originally intended as a treatment for ebola — for use while Washington bought up almost all supplies.

Recently the US said it had purchased 92 per cent of all remdesivir from its producer, Gilead Sciences, until the end of September — about 500,000 treatments out of nearly 550,000.

However in early July, Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia had enough of the drug in the national stockpile thanks to donations from its maker.

“Australia’s in a fortunate position, it’s available for doctors to use from the national medical stockpile for patients who are in hospital with illness,” he said.

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