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04 August 2022

RACGP releases COVID-19 antivirals resource

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has released a new resource to help GPs assess eligibility for COVID-19 antiviral treatments.

The “prescribing workflow” guidelines provide information for GPs on carrying out assessments so that patients can have quick access to the potentially lifesaving treatments if they subsequently test positive to the virus. The guidelines cover the use of Molnupiravir, which is sold as Lagevrio, and nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir, branded as Paxlovid, both of which are now listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS).

Last month, the college welcomed eligibility criteria for the two treatments being broadened to allow more patients to access them, including anyone over the age of 70.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said the resource came at a crucial time.

“This is the first time guidelines have been released on how to do pre-emptory assessments for these treatments,” she said.

“The antiviral drugs prevent vulnerable patients groups, such as older people, those with serious underlying health conditions and the immunocompromised, from suffering severe effects from COVID-19 and ending up in a hospital bed. So, we must enhance awareness of these treatments and ensure that more patients are assessed for eligibility before they contract COVID-19.

“I know that GPs and general practice teams have an enormous amount on their plate and little time to spare. However, where possible, I encourage practices to consider identifying and contacting patients who may be eligible for these treatments in the event they test positive for COVID-19. Our guidelines include information on doing just this so that more patients who meet the criteria for these medicines are identified early on. This is critical because the antivirals have to be taken within five days of symptom onset, and they become less effective the closer you get to day five.

“The suitability assessment can be carried out using existing Medicare Benefits Schedule items for general attendances, and the guidelines also include details of telehealth phone consultation items lasting more than 20 minutes, which were recently introduced to help GPs and other medical practitioners to assess eligibility for the medicines. The resource also highlights that those who test positive to COVID-19 are exempt from the existing relationship rule, meaning they do not need to have seen the GP performing the assessment in-person within the past 12 months to access telehealth consultations.

“So, my message to all practices is to take full advantage of this resource. I am incredibly proud of the vital role GPs and general practice teams are performing throughout this pandemic, and there is so much more work to be done in the months ahead given the continued high levels of community transmission right across Australia.”

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett also encouraged practices to use the guidelines and spread the word.

“These are really important guidelines. With this third wave, we're now seeing the peak number of cases of COVID-19 for the whole of the pandemic,” he said.

“This is a document that practices can use to make the way they deal with patients more efficient and get those prescriptions out safely and quickly.”

Full details on the guidelines for GPs' prescribing workflows for oral COVID-19 treatments are available on the RACGP website. The RACGP’s COVID-19 resources includes information relevant for every state and territory. A guide with details relevant to general practice about the COVID-19 oral treatments has also been published by newsGP.

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