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Second Covid antiviral to be rolled out to clinically vulnerable next month

second antiviral

A second antiviral treatment for people most at risk of serious illness from Covid-19 will be made available from next month, the Government has announced. 

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) today said that antiviral PF-07321332+ritonavir – known as Paxlovid – will be deployed to ‘thousands’ of people with weakened immune systems from 10 February. 

The antiviral has been found to reduce the relative risk of Covid-associated hospitalisation or death by 88% in those who received treatment within five days of developing symptoms in clinical trials, the DHSC said.

The drug will be available to those who are ‘at highest risk’ from Covid, such as the immunocompromised, cancer patients or those with Down’s Syndrome, and is hoped to ‘save thousands of lives and help to ease burdens on the NHS’, it added.

Another antiviral molnupiravir and the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab are already being delivered to the high-risk patients, with nearly 10,000 treated to date in the UK.  

Further details on the deployment of the new treatment ‘will be set out in due course’, including the potential for it to be rolled out through the PANORAMIC study, the DHSC said.

However, it added that those within eligible groups have already been informed by NHS that they will be eligible for antiviral treatment should they test positive for Covid.   

It said: ‘Eligible patients who receive a positive test will be assessed over the phone by an expert clinician from an NHS Covid Medicines Delivery Unit (CMDU), who will review and discuss with the patient what the most appropriate treatment would be for them.

‘Those being prescribed a monoclonal antibody treatment will be invited to attend the CMDU, while those receiving PF-07321332+ritonavir can either get someone to collect it for them or have it delivered to their home.’

Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘This is an important milestone – especially as Paxlovid® has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for vulnerable patients by 88%, meaning potentially thousands of lives could be saved.

‘We will set out further details on access to the new antiviral soon – until then, anyone who is eligible who tests positive for Covid-19 and has symptoms should sign-up to the PANORAMIC trial for the chance to receive our other antiviral molnupiravir.’ 

The Government has procured 2.75 million courses of PF-07321332+ritonavir – which was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in December – as well as 2.23 million courses of molnupiravir.

As of last month, vulnerable patients in the community can access antivirals and monoclonal antibody treatments against Covid-19, with those eligible directed to local CMDUs.

GPs can also refer suitable patients for antiviral treatment via the University of Oxford’s PANORAMIC study.

Earlier this month, NHS England said that GPs will be required to refer a ‘modest number’ of patients who could be eligible for antiviral treatments against Covid but may not be automatically alerted.

Patients who believe themselves to be eligible for the treatment are also being asked to contact their GP or 111 for an ‘urgent’ referral if they are not contacted by the NHS within 24 hours of a positive PCR.

It followed GP calls for more details on how the new treatments would be deployed locally, amid scant information on when and where they would be able to refer patients.

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A version of this article was first published by our sister title The Pharmacist

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