New Covid antiviral pill ‘could be offered to patients before Christmas’

The first oral anti-viral medication that reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death from Covid-19 could reportedly be offered to patients before Christmas.

The antiviral Lagevrio (molnupiravir) was yesterday found to be safe and effective, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced.

The pill reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate Covid who are at increased risk of developing severe disease.

The drug works by stopping the virus from multiplying, meaning levels are kept low in the body, reducing the severity of the disease.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is set to launch a national pilot of the Molnupiravir antiviral pill, The Sunday Telegraph reported.

There have been a number of Covid vaccines that have emerged across the world – but it’s the first pill of its kind in the UK

According to reports, 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.

Last month, the UK became the first country in the world to license its use – a move described as a “game-changer” by Mr Javid.

But just over a week ago, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned its use may have to be reconsidered in the light of the emergence of Omicron.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has warned the pill’s use may have to be reconsidered in light of the emergence of Omicron
Getty Images)

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.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The UK has proven itself to be a world-leader in identifying and rolling out effective treatments for Covid-19, including through Government-backed national trials.

“The Government’s antivirals taskforce was launched to identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 to take at home, stopping the infection spreading and speeding up recovery time.

“There are a number of exciting opportunities in the pipeline and we will provide further details in due course.”

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