COVID-19 antiviral medicines can help people who are at risk of becoming very sick with COVID-19.
Last updated: 11 August 2022
On this page:
- Taking antiviral medicines to treat COVID-19
- Eligibility for COVID-19 medicines
- Types of COVID-19 medicines available
- If you test positive for COVID-19
- Advance prescriptions for COVID-19 medicines
- Return of symptoms following treatment
- Medicines given in hospital
COVID-19 antiviral medicines are available to treat eligible people with COVID-19 at home.
You must start taking COVID-19 medicines within the first five days of getting COVID-19 symptoms.
When taken early in COVID-19 illness, these medicines have been proven to reduce hospitalisation and death.
These medicines are free for eligible people with COVID-19 within five days of their symptoms starting. If eligible, you may be able to get a prescription from your usual healthcare provider, or the medicine may be supplied without a prescription from some pharmacies.
People with a high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 are eligible for treatment with COVID-19 medicines.
To be eligible for COVID-19 antiviral medication you must:
- have symptoms and have tested positive for COVID-19 or
- have symptoms and be a household contact of a person with COVID-19
One of the following must also apply:
- you have a severely weakened immune system
- you have Down syndrome
- you have sickle cell disease
- you are aged 75 years or older
- you have previously been admitted to an intensive care unit as a result of COVID-19 and have tested positive again
You may also be eligible if you meet two or more of the below criteria:
- you have high-risk medical conditions
- you are over 50 years of age
- you are of Māori or Pacific Island ethnicity
- you have not been vaccinated for COVID-19, or are not up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations
Consult your GP or pharmacy to see if you are eligible.
Please note: These medicines may not be suitable for everyone, even if they meet eligibility criteria.
Te Whatu Ora has developed an Eligibility guide for COVID-19 antiviral medicines:
- Eligibility guide for COVID-19 antiviral medicines (PDF, 208 KB)
- Eligibility guide for COVID-19 antiviral medicines (Word 100 KB)
12 August 2022
Three COVID-19 antiviral medicines are available to treat eligible people with COVID-19 in the community:
- nirmatrelvir with ritonavir (branded as Paxlovid)
- molnupiravir (branded as Lagevrio)
- remdesivir, an infusion treatment (branded as Veklury).
Paxlovid consists of two medicines (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) that you take together. They reduce the amount of virus in your body. You take Paxlovid tablets for five days.
It is important to tell your usual healthcare provider or pharmacist of any illnesses, and medicines, herbal remedies or supplements you are taking. They may affect the safety of Paxlovid.
If you were given an advance prescription for Paxlovid, you may still need a clinical assessment before getting these medicines. Visit Health Navigator for information about Paxlovid, including how to take it, what to think about before you take it, and possible side effects.
There is information below about the possible return of COVID-19 symptoms soon after finishing treatment with Paxlovid.
Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) is a medicine that reduces the amount of virus in your body. You take molnupiravir capsules for five days.
Visit Health Navigator for information about molnupiravir, including how to take it, what to think about before you take it, and possible side effects.
Remdesivir (Veklury) is a medicine that reduces the amount of virus in your body. It is given once a day, usually for three days. It is given by a slow injection into your vein (called an intravenous infusion), over 30 to 120 minutes. This option is mostly only available in hospital but may be available via some community providers as well, such as rural settings
Visit Health Navigator for information about remdesivir, including when it is given and possible side effects.
If you get COVID-19, you must self-isolate so you will need to arrange to have the medicine delivered to you by friends, whānau or by other means. Some pharmacies can deliver the medicine.
Getting a prescription from your general practice (GP)
If you think you may be eligible, talk to your usual general practice (GP) by phone about getting a prescription for the COVID-19 medicine that is right for you. They will help you work out if you are suitable for antiviral medicine. It will depend on several factors, including your age, ethnicity, other health conditions and vaccination status.
Getting the medicine from a pharmacy
If you think you may be eligible, you may be able to get COVID-19 medicines without a prescription from your local pharmacy. Talk to your local pharmacy by phone to see if that is right for you. The pharmacist will carry out a clinical assessment and check your eligibility before providing the medicine.
Pharmacies supplying antivirals can be found on Healthpoint.
A prescription is required at these pharmacies.
No prescription is required at these pharmacies.
If you are at risk of severe illness from COVID-19, you may be able to get a prescription from your usual general practice before you get sick. This means the pharmacy will have the prescription ready to use if you become unwell. If you test positive and develop symptoms, you can then arrange to have the medicine delivered by friends or whānau, or by other means, such as your pharmacy in some instances.
Talk to your usual healthcare provider to see if getting a prescription before you get unwell is right for you. It is not possible to get an advance prescription to take on overseas travel in case you get COVID-19 while overseas.
For some people, symptoms may return after completing a course of Paxlovid. This is known as Paxlovid rebound.
People experiencing Paxlovid rebound do not appear to get severely ill. Symptoms are usually mild and typically resolve within three days.
It is normal for some people recovering from COVID-19 to have symptoms that come and go for some time, regardless of whether they have taken antiviral medicines.
You should stay home and recover until 24 hours after you no longer have symptoms if:
- your symptoms return after finishing the five-day course of Paxlovid,
- and it’s 28 days or less since you first got symptoms or tested positive.
There is no need to take another course of Paxlovid if your symptoms return during this time.
If you have an underlying health condition or your symptoms are getting worse, call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or your usual healthcare provider.
Some other medicines are available to treat COVID-19 but are only given in hospital. More information is available on the Pharmac website.