Coronavirus: Ministry of Health rejects reports virus-killing nasal spray approved for sale in New Zealand

Reports that a COVID-killing nasal spray made by a Canadian biotech firm has been approved for over-the-counter sale in New Zealand aren't true, according to the Ministry of Health.

SaNOtize this week announced its nitric oxide nasal spray Enovid had "received interim approval" in Israel, and would be on pharmacy shelves in New Zealand "immediately". 

"The product we have developed, which kills viruses in the upper nasal pathways, will be delivered via a nasal spray bottle that contains a month's supply for an individual," said co-founder Gilly Regev.

"We look forward to updating the public in Israel and New Zealand with details on when Enovid will hit store shelves."

SaNOtize's press release was picked up by news outlets worldwide, including wire service Reuters. But the Ministry of Health told Newshub it's not true - nor would Enovid be sold over-the-counter. 

"Based on the therapeutic claims made for the product, its claimed mode of action and the nitric oxide ingredient, Enovid nasal spray would be a prescription  medicine under New Zealand law (Medicines Act 1981)," a spokesperson said.

"Medicines intended for supply in New Zealand, except in certain tightly specified circumstances, must first be approved by the process operated by Medsafe. This process ensures that the quality, safety and efficacy of a medicine meets internationally agreed standards before it can be supplied."

The ministry said the "approval referred to in information about the product may be related to a notification made to the New Zealand Web-Assisted Notification Database (WAND) operated by Medsafe... where medical devices for supply in New Zealand are required to be notified.  

"This requires self-notification by companies wishing to supply medical devices and is not an application or approval process. The presence of an entry on this database does not confirm or imply that the product meets the requirements of the Medicines Act 1981."

Reuters later updated its version of the story, but the original report remains on many news sites.

The Ministry of Health said it would remove Enovid from the WAND database, and would let SaNOtize know it can't be sold here until it gets approval.