UK launches new Antivirals Taskforce to deploy innovative Covid-19 home treatments Representational image (iStock)
THE UK has launched a new Antivirals Taskforce to identify treatments for patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 to stop the infection spreading and speed up recovery time.
The Taskforce will search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials to ensure they can be rapidly rolled out by autumn, an official statement said.
Besides, it will look at opportunities to onshore the manufacture of antiviral treatments.
Prime minister Boris Johnson said: “The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds.
“Our new Antivirals Taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop Covid-19 in its tracks. These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.”
The government plans to have at least two effective treatments this year, either in a tablet or capsule form, that the public can take at home following a positive Covid-19 test or exposure to someone with the virus, the statement added.
“The UK is leading the world in finding and rolling out effective treatments for COVID-19, having identified dexamethasone, which has saved over a million lives worldwide, and tocilizumab,” said health secretary Matt Hancock.
“Modelled on the success of the vaccines and therapeutics taskforces, we are now bringing together a new team that will supercharge the search for antiviral treatments and roll them out as soon as the autumn.”
The new taskforce will sit alongside the government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce, which will continue its vital work to identify and supply treatments found to be effective in clinical trials, for all stages of a patient’s exposure and response to Covid-19.
Sir Patrick Vallance, government chief scientific adviser, said: “The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against Covid-19 has been critical to the pandemic response. Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines.”
Dr Nikita Kanani, medical director of primary care for NHS England, said: “Alongside caring for 400,000 Covid-19 patients since the start of the pandemic, the NHS has saved lives around the world through its contribution to developing the first ever treatment for Covid-19, dexamethasone, as well as administering the first vaccine for the virus, outside of clinical trials.
“The NHS has put research into reality at record speed during the pandemic and this taskforce will now help us to identify and roll out even more new, convenient treatments for patients with Covid-19.”