‘Game changing’ Covid antiviral pill to be rolled out ‘before Christmas’

The UK is the first country in the world to license the drug for use (Photo: Shutterstock)

An antiviral pill to treat Covid-19 could be rolled out to patients before Christmas in a bid to protect the most vulnerable.

The NHS is planning to launch a national pilot of the Molnupiravir pill, also known as Lageviro, in the coming weeks, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

Last month the UK became the first country in the world to license the drug for use, in a move Health Secretary Sajid Javid described as a “game changer”.

The government secured 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir in October after a study found it reduced the rate of hospital admissions and deaths by 50% in patients with mild to moderate symptoms.

Mr Javid said: “This antiviral will be an excellent addition to our armoury against Covid-19, and it remains vital everyone comes forward for their life-saving Covid-19 vaccine - particularly those eligible for a booster - to ensure as many people as possible are protected over the coming months.”

What is Molnupravir?

Molnupiravir is an oral antiviral drug developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme.

It is given to people who have had a positive Covid-19 test and have mild to moderate symptoms, as well as at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

This could include obesity, being over the age of 60, diabetes or heart disease.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the drug is safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospital admission and death in people with mild to moderate Covid who are at high risk from the virus.

How does it work?

The drug works by interfering with the virus’s replication, preventing it from multiplying to keep levels low in the body.

This has the effect of reducing the severity of the disease.

The MHRA said the drug should be taken as soon as possible following a positive Covid-19 test and within the first five days.

Who will the drug be given to?

The Sunday Telegraph reports that the NHS is expected to deliver courses of the tablet to clinically vulnerable and immunosuppressed patients within as little as 48 hours of them testing positive for Covid-19.

It said hospitals and GPs had been told a series of Covid-19 medicines delivery units were being established to ensure the treatment gets to patients as quickly as possible once it is confirmed they have the virus.

Patients considered at high-risk from severe illness from coronavirus are expected to be phoned by their local Covid-19 medicines delivery until to be offered the drug if they have tested positive, according to reports.

A course of tablets would then be given to take at home, but some patients will reportedly be given the drug intravenously in hospital.

In light of the emergence of the new Omicron Covid-19 variant in the UK, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned its use may have to be reconsidered.

He told a No 10 news conference: “I think we probably need to do a rethink of it just to make sure with the new variant, we’re targeting in the right direction.”

This article originally appeared on our sister site, NationalWorld.