The Australian Department of Health advises all registered community pharmacies (under section 90) must make available medicines registered under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).
There are more than 6,000 registered community pharmacies. Each should stock – or be prepared to order – COVID-19 antivirals.
Wholesalers (Community Service Obligation Distributors) have arrangements in place to supply orders of Paxlovid within 24 hours, although there may be a longer delay in remote areas (MM5-7). The department has ensured that wholesalers can return stock that has expired, and receive a refund. It is encouraging wholesalers to extend this policy to their pharmacy clients. MSD – the suppliers of Lagevrio – have a similar arrangement.
The department discourages private prescriptions for Lagevrio and Paxlovid outside PBS eligibility criteria, to preserve community pharmacy shelf stock for eligible patients.
The department has advised that a prescriber who considers a patient should receive one of these medicines but does not meet PBS eligibility criteria (for example: does not have a Medicare card) should consider approaching the Victorian Department of Health, which has stock from the National Medicines Stockpile, and has separate eligibility criteria. More information is available on HealthPathways Melbourne, and on the Victorian Department of Health website and fact sheet.
The Victorian COVID-19 therapies PBS prescriber helpline is staffed 7 days a week from 8am to 5pm and can be contacted on (03) 8290 3801. It is staffed by Alfred Health pharmacists experienced in the prescription of COVID-19 early therapies. It is intended for use by Victorian PBS prescribers, such as GPs and nurse practitioners.