• Wednesday, February 08, 2023

News

UK secures millions more antivirals to tackle Omicron

Molnupiravir antiviral pills for Covid treatment. (REUTERS)

By: Sattwik Biswal

IN order to tackle Omicron variant of coronavirus, the UK government has secured millions more antivirals for NHS patients by signing two new contracts.

The significant new deals have been accelerated following the emergence of the Omicron variant to protect vulnerable people over the coming months. The move would help reduce hospitalisations and ease pressures on the NHS.

Antivirals are treatments used to either treat those who are infected with a virus or sometimes protect exposed individuals from becoming infected. They target the virus at an early stage, preventing progression to more severe, or even critical stage and symptoms.


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The two new contracts are for 1.75 million additional courses of Merck Sharp and Dohme’s (MSD) molnupiravir (Lagevrio®) and 2.5 million additional courses of PF-07321332/ritonavir (Paxlovid™) from Pfizer which will be available from early next year and are both expected to be effective against Omicron.

The 4.25 million courses are in addition to the procurement of 480,000 courses of molnupiravir and 250,000 courses of PF-07321332/ritonavir announced in October this year.

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our Covid-19 booster programme continues at unparalleled pace and it’s vital we further bolster our national response to the virus by ensuring access to the world’s best treatments too.

“This is a mammoth deal for the UK Government and for patients across the country that are set to benefit from these antivirals over the coming months.

“If you’re aged 50 and over or have an underlying health condition and test positive for Covid-19 – sign up to the study as soon as you can and take advantage of this remarkable treatment.”

Molnupiravir has shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk, non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 by 30 per cent. While, PF-07321332/ritonavir reduced the relative risk of Covid-19-associated hospitalisation or death by 89 per cent in those who received treatment within three days of onset of symptoms.

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