The Molnupiravir antiviral pill, known as Lagevrio, will be the first at-home treatment for Covid and is set to be rolled out to patients by the holidays to combat the spread of the Omicron variant. According to the Telegraph, Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, is to announce the launch after the UK medicines regulator became the first in the world to approve the pill last month.
Once launched, the NHS is expected to deliver the antiviral pill to clinically vulnerable and immunosuppressed patients who have tested positive for Covid.
Whitehall sources have stated the delivery of the antiviral pill has become “even more important” as the Omicron variant spreads across the country.
Mr Javid said approving the pill marked a “historic day”.
He said: “The UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19.
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“This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the groundbreaking treatment.”
Molnupiravir interferes with the virus’s ability to replicate, which means it is less able to multiply and reach high enough levels in the respiratory system to cause severe disease.
As the drug is most effective when given in the early stages of infection, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recommends it is used as soon as possible after a positive test and within five days of symptoms appearing.
The drug is approved for people with mild to moderate Covid and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, or being older than 60.
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Dr June Raine, the MHRA chief executive, said: “Following a rigorous review of the data by our expert scientists and clinicians, we are satisfied that Lagevrio [molnupiravir] is safe and effective for those at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and have granted its approval.
“Lagevrio is another therapeutic to add to our armoury against COVID-19. It is also the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously.
“This is important because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before COVID-19 has progressed to a severe stage.”
News of the antiviral pill comes after tighter travel restrictions were put in place, forcing fully-vaccinated UK arrivals to show a pre-departure test, as well as a day two Covid test.
However, Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has warned the new restrictions may “kill off the travel sector again”.