Some patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 will not have to pay for prescriptions of antiviral drugs, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

In an announcement, the DHSC said that charges would be waived for ‘eligible cohorts’ who do not already receive free prescriptions until 31 March 2022.

The waiver will also apply to therapeutic treatments made available through the STIMULATE ICP trial, which is treating community patients for long Covid, and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded HEAL-COVID clinical trial, treating patients who have been hospitalised for Covid-19.

The DHSC said: ‘We have agreed to make arrangements for the purposes of regulation 13 of the NHS (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations 2015 for antiviral medicines to be supplied to patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and who are in the eligible cohorts of patients identified by the UK chief medical officers.

‘Where the patients are not already eligible for free prescriptions, the antiviral medicines will be supplied free of charge.’

Section 13 of the NHS (Charges for Drugs and Appliances) Regulations 2015 has said there can be exemption from charges when there is a risk to public health.

The legislation says: ‘In the circumstances set out in paragraph (2), the following drugs are exempt from any charge under these Regulations:

‘(a)Drugs for the prevention or treatment of a condition or disease arising from an emergency that threatens, is causing or has caused serious damage or risk to public health in England or any part of England; and

‘(b)Drugs, the supply of which is for, or is in anticipation of, a pandemic disease where the supply is in accordance with protocols relating to that disease as provided for in regulation 247 of the Human Medicines Regulations 2012 (exemption for supply in the event or anticipation of pandemic disease).’

The circumstances include where arrangements have been made for supplying the drug free of charge, either by the health secretary or the NHS body that is responsible for the arrangements under which the drug is supplied.

It comes after PSNC highlighted the potential for community pharmacies to distribute Covid-19 oral antiviral treatments to patients in the future, despite pharmacies not being included in initial plans to give access to the most vulnerable through GP practices.

The Government announced last week that thousands of vulnerable patients would have access to antiviral treatments through GP hubs following a PCR test through the PANORAMIC study, run by the University of Oxford. Patients will receive their medication via an online pharmacy.