A NEW pill that patients with Covid can take at home will be rolled out on the NHS, regulators have announced today.
The treatment, called Paxlovid (PF-07321332 and ritonavir) has today been approved by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
The drug has been proven to be safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate Covid-19 infection who are at an increased risk of developing severe disease.
It comes as experts say that most people who catch the Omicron variant, which is now responsible for 90 per cent of cases in the UK, will suffer more cold-like symptoms.
A string of hugely positive studies show Omicron IS milder than other strains, with the first official UK report revealing the risk of hospitalisation is 50 to 70 per cent lower than with Delta.
Covid booster jabs protect against Omicron and offer the best chance to get through the pandemic, health officials have repeatedly said.
The Sun's Jabs Army campaign is helping get the vital extra vaccines in Brits' arms to ward off the need for any new restrictions.
The approval of the drug adds to the arsenal of vaccines that the UK has deployed.
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Paxlovid has been developed by Pfizer and works by stopping the protease that allows the virus to replicate.
This in turn stops it from multiplying and helps the body get over infection.
Patients having the treatment will be given two tablets that are taken together, twice a day for five days.
The treatment has been tested extensively and in clinical trials, experts found that in high-risk adults with symptomatic Covid-19 infection, a five day treatment course of Paxlovid reduced the risk of Covid-19 related hospitalisation and death within 28 days by 89 per cent.
This is in comparison to a placebo group when treatment was started within three days of the onset of Covid-19 symptoms.
The number of hospitalisations and deaths were 0.8 per cent (three out of 389) in the Paxlovid group compared with 7 per cent (27 out of 385) in the placebo group.
Favourable results were seen in patients when treatment was started within 5 days of the start of symptoms.
Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said: "We now have a further antiviral medicine for the treatment of Covid-19 that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously.
"This means it can be administered outside a hospital setting before Covid-19 has progressed to a severe stage.
“I hope the announcement today gives reassurance to those particularly vulnerable to Covid-19, for whom this treatment has been approved. For these individuals, this treatment could be life-saving.”
The drug has been authorised for use in people aged 18 and above who have mild to moderate Covid-19 infection and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.
These risk factors include obesity, older age (>60 years), diabetes mellitus, or heart disease.
It is too early to know whether the omicron variant has any impact on Paxlovid’s effectiveness but the MHRA is working with Pfizer to establish this.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid, said: "The UK has been a world leader at finding and rolling out COVID-19 treatments to patients. This is further proved by the MHRA being one of the first in the world to approve this life-saving antiviral.
“We are also leading the whole of Europe in the number of antivirals we’ve bought per person – with over 2.75 million courses of this antiviral secured for NHS patients by the Antivirals Taskforce.
“The booster campaign, testing and antiviral defences ensure our country is in the strongest possible position to deal with the threat posed by Omicron as we head into the new year.”
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