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by Staff Reporter
21 October 2021
Covid antivirals to help treat those most at risk from the virus

Covid antivirals to help treat those most at risk from the virus

Thousands of the most vulnerable patients will have access to Covid antivirals following deals announced by the UK Government.

The two treatments, which have yet to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), will be given to the most at-risk to stop the infection from spreading and speed up recovery time.

The deals were announced by health secretary Sajid Javid, who yesterday warned daily cases could rise to 100,000.

However, he rejected calls to introduce stricter public health measures in England to help ease pressure on the NHS.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said her Cabinet had discussed the emergence of a new mutation of the Delta variant, which scientists believe could be more transmissible. She tweeted that while case numbers have fallen in Scotland in recent weeks, they "remain higher than we'd like".

The UK reported more than 49,000 cases and a further 179 deaths yesterday.

Announcing the deals to secure the antivirals, Javid said: "Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been building an armoury of life-saving measures to tackle the virus and protect the country – including our phenomenal vaccination programme and therapeutics.

"I am delighted to confirm we may soon have a new defence in our arsenal with two new antiviral drugs that we have secured.

"Our work is far from done though – and we’ll continue our tireless work to secure more innovative treatments so we can protect as many people as possible from the virus, its variants and future diseases."

The two antivirals are:

  • Molnupiravir - from Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), of which the government has secured 480,000 courses. It has proven in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 by 50 per cent
  • PF-07321332/ritonavir - from Pfizer, of which the government has secured 250,000 courses. 

The government and NHS are now working at pace on plans for deployment of the treatments, including the delivery of a national study.

This will allow medical experts to gather further data on the potential benefits these treatments bring to vaccinated patients.

Chair of the Antivirals Taskforce Eddie Gray said: "This is a very important development in our mission to find antivirals for those exposed to Covid-19, supporting the renowned vaccination programme and the NHS over the coming months.

"Should they be approved by the medicines regulator, we could see these treatments rolled out to patients this winter, providing them with vital protection."

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