UK Becomes First Country To Approve Antiviral COVID Pill

Britain became the first country in the world to approve anti-COVID pills on Thursday, according to regulators.
Sajid Javid, health minister, said that today was a historic moment for the UK. The UK has approved an antiviral which can be taken at home for COVID-19.

He said, "This will be a game changer for the most vulnerable as well as the immunosuppressed who will soon have the opportunity to receive the groundbreaking treatment."

Molnupiravir is an antiviral that slows down the virus' replication.

According to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, (MHRA), its trials concluded that it was safe and effective in reducing hospitalization and death among people with mild or moderate COVID-19, who are at greater risk of severe disease.

The clinical trial data suggests that the drug is most effective if taken in the early stages of infection. The MHRA recommends that the drug be used within five days after the onset of symptoms.

It is approved for use by people with at least one risk factor of developing severe illness such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Britain, one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic in recent years, announced that it had ordered 480,000 doses from US pharmaceutical giant Merck.

The drug has already been evaluated by the European Union and American drug regulators.

Not a vaccine replacement

Merck has already reached agreements with other countries, including the US. The US has also planned to purchase 1.7 million doses of molnupiravir, if it is approved by regulators.

June Raine, chief executive of MHRA, described the pill as "another therapeutic addition to our arsenal".

She added that it was the first antiviral approved for this disease to be administered by mouth.

This is important because it allows it to be done outside of a hospital setting.

Munir Pirmohamed (chair of the Commission on Human Medicines) stated that clinical trials showed the drug was effective in reducing hospital admissions or death rates for non-hospitalized at-risk adults by 50%.

However, experts warn that this treatment is not a miracle cure. Pirmohamed stated that it is not meant to replace vaccinations against the virus.

According to the government, the treatment will be announced by the government and the state-run National Health Service "in due course".

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, a simple treatment has been sought. Merck's announcement about its trials results was celebrated as a significant step towards this goal.

COVID therapeutics, such as monoclonal antibody and Gilead’s remdesivir, have been administered intravenously until now.

Molnupiravir, which is an inhibitor of influenza and respiratory syndrome virus, was originally developed by Emory University in Atlanta. It is also used to treat other acute respiratory infections.

Merck is also running a separate clinical study for a second dose of the drug. This is to protect people who have come into contact with the virus.

Agence France-Presse