The antiviral Molnupiravir has been shown to halve patients’ risk of death and it is hoped it will reduce pressure on the NHS this winter
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Britain is rolling out the first pill that can be taken at home to tackle Covid-19 symptoms.
The antiviral Molnupiravir has been shown to halve patients’ risk of death and it is hoped it will reduce pressure on the NHS this winter.
Those to get the drug will be over-50s and people who have an underlying health condition who agree to do so as part of a nationwide NHS clinical trial.
The study run by Oxford University is recruiting around 10,000 UK patients at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 who receive a positive PCR test.
Those at highest risk who test positive for the virus – such as immunocompromised cancer patients or those with Down’s syndrome – will also be able to access Molnupiravir or the novel monoclonal antibody drug Ronapreve, outside of the study from 16 December.
Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)
Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, said: “Throughout this pandemic, we have rapidly identified and deployed some of the world’s best treatments for Covid-19 to UK patients.
“Antivirals will be a vital intervention for years to come, helping to protect those that can’t mount the same antibody response to the vaccines.
“This is really positive news for the future of our response to Covid-19 – please sign up to the study if you’re eligible as soon as you can.”
Molnupiravir should be taken twice daily within the first five days of the positive test.
The Government said in October it had secured 480,000 courses of the drug.
Then the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has already recommended it for use in people with mild to moderate Covid-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness. These included obesity, older age, diabetes and heart disease.
If the UK trial confirms the success rate of earlier trials by manufacturers Merck Sharp & Dohme then the drug could be offered more widely on the NHS.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “The UK is a world-leader in rolling out innovative treatments to the patients who need them and today is a historic milestone in our battle against the virus, deploying the first medicines vulnerable people will be able to take outside of hospital and in the comfort of their own homes to protect themselves.
“This opens up a new era for the treatment of Covid-19, one where we can begin to cover every phase of contracting this deadly disease – whether it be before you catch it, just after you catch it, if you develop symptoms or if you require hospital care.
“If you’re eligible, please sign up to the study as soon as possible and play your part in history.”
Taking part in the study will require participants to complete a daily diary for 28 days through the PANORAMIC website or receive a phone call from the trial team on days 7, 14 and 28 to speak about their symptoms.
Antibody treatments such as Ronapreve give the body the Covid antibodies it needs to fight the illness while antivirals interfere with the way the virus replicates and reproduces.
Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “We welcome the announcement that Ronapreve will now be made available for people with blood cancer as soon as they get a positive Covid PCR test.
“People with blood cancer are some of the most vulnerable to Covid and I’m pleased that the Government have prioritised this group for treatment.
“For people with blood cancer, it’s more important than ever to get a PCR test as soon as any Covid symptoms develop. This will ensure people receive treatment as soon as possible after they become infected with the virus.
“It’s also important that a clear communication plan is put in place for health care professionals who work with vulnerable patients, so they know how to get access for their patients to these new treatments. We hope the NHS will communicate this as a matter of priority.”