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

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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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“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.”

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