Deals agreed for new treatments for those most at risk from Covid-19

Deals have been agreed for two new treatments which could be used for some of those most vulnerable to the effects of Covid-19.

Thousands of courses of the antivirals have been secured by the Government to be ready for use this winter, subject to approval by the UK medicines regulator.

The treatments, from pharmaceutical companies Merck Sharp and Dohme (MSD), and Pfizer, would be aimed at those most at risk from the virus, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

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Antivirals are used to either treat people infected with a virus or to protect exposed individuals from becoming infected.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am delighted to confirm we may soon have a new defence in our arsenal with two new antiviral drugs that we have secured." Picture: Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool/Getty Images.

The data currently available for the new antivirals is for their use as treatment for people who have Covid-19, while studies on using them in a preventive way have only just begun.

The Department of Health and Social Care said 480,000 courses of Molnupiravir, made by MSD, have been secured, as well as 250,000 courses of Pfizer’s PF-07321332/ritonavir.

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Molnupiravir has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospital admission or death for at-risk adults with mild to moderate Covid-19 by 50%, the department said.

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Pfizer’s antiviral is at the beginning of its phase three trials.

Both are awaiting approval by the the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

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It is understood that, if approved, Molnupiravir could be available by the middle of November, and Pfizer’s treatment by the middle of January 2022.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “I am delighted to confirm we may soon have a new defence in our arsenal with two new antiviral drugs that we have secured.

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“Our work is far from done though – and we’ll continue our tireless work to secure more innovative treatments so we can protect as many people as possible from the virus, its variants and future diseases.”

Work is underway to look at how to deploy the treatments, with making them available from pharmacies understood to be one option under consideration.

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England’s deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said antivirals “bring another key intervention to the table”.

Costs of the deals have not been given due to commercial sensitivities.

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