‘Vital’ at-home Covid pills could be given to vulnerable people this winter

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Antiviral drugs that help reduce the risk of Covid hospitalization and death from Covid may be made available to vulnerable people, after the government secured two deals for hundreds of thousands of treatment courses.

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It is expected that the tablets will be made available to the elderly and people with weakened immune systems, who have recently tested positive for Covid or have come in contact with an infected person. Ideally patients take the medicine at home before falling ill.

The antivirals, known as molnupiravir and PF-07321332/ritonavir, are to be provided by Merck and Pfizer, respectively, but will need to be approved for use by the UK drug regulator before being offered to patients through the NHS.

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Eddie Gray, chairman of the Antiviral Taskforce, said the pills would help support the NHS and UK’s immunization program in the coming months, which is expected to reduce infections and hospitalisations.

“Should they be approved by the drug regulator, we can start these treatments for patients this winter, providing them with significant protection,” he said.

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Molnupiravir, originally developed to treat influenza, reduces hospitalization and death from Covid-19 by 50 percent in patients recently infected with the virus, according to trial results published by Merck earlier this month. . The UK government has secured a sufficient supply of medicine to treat 480,000 people.

Pfizer is composed of the antiviral ritonavir, which is used to treat HIV, and an enzyme inhibitor called PF-07321332.

Large-scale trials are still underway to determine the effectiveness of this treatment, although expectations are high that it will prove successful. Around 250,000 courses have been ordered by the government.

Both antivirals work in a similar way by interfering with an enzyme that the covid virus uses to replicate once it enters a cell. This then hinders its ability to spread throughout the body.

If newly infected patients are treated at an early stage, often before the manifestation of symptoms, it can prevent any potential disease from progressing to a more serious condition.

The government and the NHS are now working on plans to deploy the two treatments, including setting up a national study that will allow experts to collect data on the potential benefits to vaccinated patients from these treatments.

Before antivirals can be authorized, they must first be assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to ensure that they are safe and effective.

England’s deputy chief medical officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said antivirals would bring “another important intervention to the table” before what is expected to be a challenging winter for the NHS.

“They will be particularly important in protecting those who may not get the same antibody response to vaccines as the majority of the population,” he said.

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Credit: www.independent.co.uk /

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