Patients who are likelier to experience severe cases of the coronavirus will be given a tablet—molnupiravir—twice a day to help in alleviating symptoms.
A game changing antiviral treatment
Data collected in clinical trials found that the pill can slash the risk of requiring hospitalisation and death by about 50%. This marks the first antiviral treatment of its kind to become available to an nation prompting the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, to call it a 'game changer'. He said:
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.
How does the pill work?
The revolutionary treatment works by introducing errors into the genetic code of enzymes that the virus uses to reproduce itself—effectively preventing it from multiplying. As a result, the virus levels stagnate and the severity of the disease is reduced considerably. June Raine, chief executive of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, explained that:
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.
Prof Penny Ward, from King's College London, said:
If these outcomes are replicated in the UK population, then the number of cases requiring hospital admission could be halved and the number of deaths greatly reduced.
It seems likely that use will be restricted for use by those at highest risk of disease complications - for example older adults with heart, lung or kidney disease, diabetes or cancer.