At-home Covid pills to treat infected Brits from next month: Sajid Javid reveals No10 has bought ‘game-changing’ anti-viral made by pharmaceutical giant Merck and batch of experimental Pfizer drug 

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  • Health Secretary says UK has bought 480,000 antiviral mollupiravir tablets made by US company Merco
  • Officials did not disclose how much the drugs cost to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
  • US spent $1.2 billion (£869 million) on orders for 1.7 million molnupirvir courses in June

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Sajid Javid revealed today that the government has procured hundreds of thousands of game-changing pills for the treatment of Covid that infected Britons can take home this winter.

Authorities have bought 480,000 doses of mollupiravir, an antiviral made by US pharmaceutical company Merck, and 250,000 courses of PF-073 from Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant behind the vaccine currently deployed for the UK’s booster drive .

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Officials did not disclose how much the health department paid but US health chiefs this summer spent $1.2 billion (£869 million) on 1.7 million molnupiravir tablets. If the drugs cost the same in the UK they are likely to cost around £250 million – even though they only cost £12 to make.

The drugs are pending approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which may come by mid-November. However, Pfizer’s pills aren’t expected to be available until January at the earliest.

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A landmark study earlier in the month showed that molanupiravir — taken twice a day — can reduce the risk of infected people being hospitalized or dying by 50 percent. It works by inhibiting the virus’ ability to reproduce in the human body.

Pfizer’s treatment — a combination of an experimental antiviral and ritonavir, a drug commonly used to treat HIV — has not yet finished clinical trials. It works differently.

Antivirals are treatments that are used either to treat people who are infected with the virus or to protect exposed individuals from becoming symptomatic. Mr Javid said the drugs are likely to be given to people who are infected or who may have been exposed to the virus in a local outbreak, for example in a care home. Officials have yet to specify to whom exactly the drugs will be offered.

Former Health Secretary Matt Hancock set up the Antiviral Taskforce in April to help add to the NHS’s arsenal of Covid treatments.

Its goal was to have two new drugs available by the end of the year – something it would have failed to do unless it struck a deal for another antiviral that is available to run out before the end of the year. . .

A landmark study earlier this month showed that mollupiravir could cut hospitalizations and deaths by up to 50 percent. It works by inhibiting the reproduction capacity of the covid virus in the human body

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference this evening, Mr Javid said: 'I am pleased to announce that we have signed two landmark deals, securing hundreds and thousands of doses of two new antivirals from Pfizer and Merck.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference this evening, Mr Javid said: ‘I am pleased to announce that we have signed two landmark deals, securing hundreds and thousands of doses of two new antivirals from Pfizer and Merck.

Officials did not disclose how much the drugs cost the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), but the US spent $1.2 billion (£869 million) in June ordering 1.7 million molnupiravir (pictured) courses.

Officials did not disclose how much the drugs cost at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), but the US spent $1.2 billion (£869 million) on orders for 1.7 million molnupiravir (left) courses in June. Health Secretary Sajid Javid (pictured right outside No 10 today) says he is ‘delighted to confirm that we may soon have a new defense in our arsenal’

Which antiviral drugs has the UK bought?

The UK has bought two antiviral drugs to help fight Covid this winter, they are called molnupiravir and PF073.

molanupiraviri

who makes?

Merck, an American pharmaceutical company

How effective is this?

A recent trial of the pill in nearly 800 patients found that mollupiravir halved hospitalization and mortality for people at high risk of serious illness from Covid.

How much did the UK order?

480,000 courses

What is its price?

Merck charges the US government about $700 (£500) per course of the drug. Although it is reported to have cost only 13 pounds to make it.

PF073

who makes?

Pfizer is an American pharmaceutical company and manufactures one of the Covid vaccines approved for use in the UK

What does he do?

Late-stage human trials on the pill began in September. Of the 2,660 people in this trial, half of the participants, who are living with someone who has tested positive for Covid, will be given the pill and the other half will be given a placebo.

Scientists will then assess whether the pill is effective in preventing infection after 14 days.

How much did the UK order?

250,000

What is its price?

There is no declared cost for the drug.

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Medicines will be given to those most vulnerable to severe illness with covid, which will be prescribed by the GP with the help of DHSC.

The pills on the NHS will be given to people who have been equally vaccinated or unvaccinated, and officials will collect data about how effective they are in the real world, before making a decision on whether another have to buy.

The study on mollupiravir was in an uninsured population, so its effectiveness in reducing severe disease by 50 percent may overestimate or overestimate its true efficacy.

Speaking at the Downing Street press conference this evening, Mr Javid said: ‘I am pleased to announce that we have signed two landmark deals, securing hundreds and thousands of doses of two new antivirals from Pfizer and Merck.

‘These antivirals have the potential to speed up the recovery time and prevent the infection from progressing. If these treatments get MHRA approval, we could provide significant protection to some of the most vulnerable patients.

‘And I want to deploy them as soon as possible. I want to thank everyone who has been involved, especially the Antiviral Taskforce led by Eddie Gray for everything it has done to make this happen and as we work to secure more of these treatments. So that we can continue to treat as many people as possible.’

Antivirals target the virus at an early stage, preventing the progression of more severe, or even severe, symptoms.

The Antiviral Taskforce will continue to look at many more options ‘spreading a range of different antivirals…

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