Covid latest: Antiviral drugs to fight virus secured for UK ‘new defence in our arsenal’

Sajid Javid announces deal for two new anti-viral drugs

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Thousand of vulnerable Covid patients could be taking new antivirals this winter – if approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) – to speed up recovery from infection. The two different antivirals, known as Molnupiravir and PF-07321332/ritonavir, are expected to help reduce the severity of symptoms, thereby easing the pressure on the NHS. Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid 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 Government has secured 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir, from company Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD).

Molnupiravir has been proven in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisations or death – for at-risk non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate Covid – by 50 percent.

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Meanwhile, the PF-07321332/ritonavir antiviral, from the company Pfizer, is concluding clinical trials right now.

The Government has secured 250,000 courses of PF-07321332/ritonavir to date.

Working in tandem with the NHS, plans are underway as to the deployment of the antivirals.

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.

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

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said “antivirals bring another key intervention to the table”.

Professor Van-Tam added: “They will be particularly vital in protecting those who may not get the same antibody response to the vaccines as the majority of the population.

“We will now work quickly to ensure the right cohorts of people receive these treatments as soon as possible, should they be approved by the MHRA.”

Who will get the new antivirals?

Those most vulnerable to the deadly side effects of coronavirus will be offered the antivirals if they are approved by the MHRA.

Professor Stephen Powis, the National Medical Director for NHS England, stated that “this new treatment being trialled in a national study”.

Findings from the national study will allow medical experts to gather further data on the potential benefits of antivirals for vaccinated individuals.

Professor Powis added: “Tested and trialled on the NHS these medicines are the latest example of the health service offering patients the world’s most innovative treatments.”

The latests Government statistics

As of 4pm on Wednesday, October 20, the number of people testing positive for Covid, the number of people admitted to hospital, and the number of deaths are on the increase.

There have been a sharp increase on all three factors, causing concern in the medical and scientific community.

Government has called for a strengthened armoury against Covid, which includes new antivirals and people taking up the booster when called to do so.

People are also encouraged to get their flu vaccination when invited to do so to prepare for this winter.

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