A new pill designed to treat COVID-19 has become the first to get official approval in the UK.
More than 104 million doses of the vaccine have been administered in the UK, with an estimated 45.8 million people fully vaccinated against coronavirus. However, just yesterday, November 3, 41,299 positive cases were reported, as well as 217 deaths, with more than 141,000 people having lost their lives to the virus.
While people are still being advised to get their vaccine, with booster jabs currently being rolled out to those most vulnerable or at risk, a new pill should help crack down on COVID-19 for those recently diagnosed with the disease.
Molnupiravir, developed by US drug company Merck (also known as MSD in the UK) and its partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is the first oral antiviral medication for COVID-19, BBC News reports.
It’ll be given twice a day for five days to patients over the age of 18, who also have one risk factor for developing severe disease, in mild-to-moderate cases. During clinical trials, the pill cut the risk of hospitalisations or death by half among patients with early COVID-19 symptoms.
By targeting an enzyme that the virus uses to make copies of itself and inserting errors into its genetic code, the pill slows its spread and lessens the severity of symptoms. The firm hopes it’ll be just as effective in the event of any new variant.
‘Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19,’ Health Secretary Sajid Javid said. ‘We are working at pace across the government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible.’
The UK government has ordered 480,000 courses of molnupiravir hoped to be delivered before the end of 2021, as well as 250,000 courses of a similar drug still being developed by Pfizer. Molnupiravir is also still pending approval by US and EU regulators.
June Raine, chief executive of the UK’s medicines regulator MHRA, described the pill as ‘another therapeutic to add to our armoury against COVID-19’.
‘It is 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,’ she added.
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