Medicare will cover long consultations by GPs to prescribe COVID-19 antivirals within days.
Health Minister Mark Butler says the new temporary MBS items will include a longer consultation by phone so antivirals can be issued safely and to as many people as possible.
Millions of Australians are now eligible for antiviral access via the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme but need to start taking them within five days of symptoms.
Following a COVID-19 positive diagnosis, they will be able from next week to have a telephone or video consultation with a doctor to obtain a prescription, Mr Butler says.
“These antiviral medicines dramatically reduce the risk of severe disease, particularly for older Australians, and will help keep people out of hospital,” he said on Saturday.
The doctor is on the line
“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.
“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.”
Mr Butler says people will need to be quick.
Thousands of Australians have already received the new treatments, with prescriptions doubling in the first days of July to around 14,000 per week.
Details of the MBS items will be available at www.mbsonline.gov.au. They will remain on the MBS until the end of October.
Mr Butler says the government’s priority remains getting people vaccinated.
“If you haven’t had your third or fourth dose, please book a free COVID-19 vaccine appointment today,” he said.