The UK Government has purchased 4.25 million more courses of Covid antivirals through two new contracts in order to combat Omicron.
This includes 1.75 million additional courses of molnupiravir from Merck Sharp and Dohme and 2.5 million of ritonavir from Pfizer, which will be available to patients early next year.
The orders are on top of the 480,000 courses of molnupiravir and 250,000 courses of ritonavir announced in October.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘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.’
It comes as thousands of vulnerable patients in the UK now have access to Covid-19 antiviral treatments in the community, with eligible patients directed to local Covid Medicines Delivery Units (CMDUs).
GPs can also refer suitable patients for antiviral treatment via the University of Oxford’s PANORAMIC study.
This week, health officials announced that a second monoclonal antibody treatment approved by the MHRA, Sotrovimab (Xevudy) is also being made available immediately, also via CMDUs.
Chair of the Antivirals Taskforce, a Government organisation launched in April to identify treatments for patients exposed to Covid, Eddie Gray said: ‘Both antivirals in our current portfolio could be vital tools against Omicron – with current evidence showing they will be effective against the variant.
‘The Antivirals Taskforce will continue its work to ensure vulnerable people who test positive for Covid-19 can rapidly access these medicines.’