Antiviral Covid pill to be rolled out to clincially vulnerable next month

AN ANTIVIRAL pill will be made available to thousands of the UK’s most vulnerable people next month, the government has announced. 

It’s the UK’s second antiviral treatment and Pfizer’s PF-07321332+ritonavir has been proven to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death from Covid-19 by 88% in clinical trials, for those who received treatment within five days of symptoms appearing.

The vaccine can be less effective for those with compromised immune systems, meaning this drug could potentially save thousands of lives and help to ease burdens on the NHS. 

The drug – simply known as Paxlovid – will be available on the NHS from February 10 to those at the highest risk who test positive for the virus – for example, people who are immunocompromised, cancer patients or those with Down’s Syndrome.

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

According to the Department of Health and Social Care, the UK has procured more antivirals per head than any other country in Europe with over 4.98m courses ordered so far.

READ MORE: Covid Scotland: 10 Scottish hotspots for coronavirus

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our pharmaceutical defences are crucial as we learn to live with COVID-19 and the UK is leading the way, especially when it comes to the use of cutting-edge antivirals.

“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.”

It comes as another study is currently open and deploying the antiviral molnupiravir to patients.


Anyone over the age of 50 or between 18 to 49 with certain underlying health conditions can sign up for the PANORAMIC study as soon as they receive a positive PCR or lateral flow test result. They need to be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that began in the last five days to be eligible to enrol.

Those in the highest risk group have been informed by the NHS if they have a condition that will make them eligible to receive these treatments, should they test positive for COVID-19.

The UK Heath Security Agency (UKHSA) has sent priority PCR tests to around 1.3 million people thus far to support rapid turnaround of results so they can access the treatments as soon as possible after symptoms begin.

Chair of the Antivirals Taskforce Eddie Gray said: “The UK has secured millions of doses of antivirals for NHS patients, so we can keep the most vulnerable safe from the virus.

“This is a promising development in deployment of these treatments. The Taskforce will continue our work to identify the world’s best antiviral treatments for UK patients.”

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