The UK is the first country to licence an antiviral pill that can reduce the risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation and death.
Molnupiravir, developed by scientists at Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, is an effective antiviral treatment for Covid-19 to report promising clinical trial results.
The first pill designed to treat symptomatic Covid-19 has been approved by the UK medicines regulator - Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
It will be given to patients as soon as possible following a positive COVID-19 test and within five days of the onset of symptoms, the regulator said, citing clinical data.
Britain has agreed to purchase 480,000 courses with the first deliveries expected in November 2021.
Molnupiravir can be taken as a pill rather than injected or given intravenously.
The pill needs to be given within 5 days of symptoms developing to be most effective.
Earlier clinical trials of molnupiravir on 775 patients who had recently caught Covid found: 7.3% of those given the drug were hospitalised, compared with 14.1% of patients who were given a placebo or dummy pill. There were no deaths in the molnupiravir group, but eight patients who were given a placebo in the trial later died of Covid-19. The results were published in a press release and have not yet been peer-reviewed.
The tablet can be taken twice daily at home and priority will be given to elderly patients and those with health vulnerabilities.
The new treatment targets an enzyme that the virus uses to make copies of itself, introducing errors into its genetic code. That should prevent it from multiplying, so keeping virus levels low in the body and reducing the severity of the disease.
Britain recorded 41,242 Covid cases on Thursday and 214 deaths within 28 days of a positive test.
Other countries such as Australia, Singapore and South Korea have also made purchase agreements.
Merck is the first company to report trial results of a pill to treat Covid-19, but other companies are working on similar treatments.
Pfizer has started trials of 2 different antiviral tablets. Swiss company Roche is also working on a similar medication.
Treatments to tackle the pandemic, which has killed more than 5.2 million people worldwide, have so far focused mainly on vaccines.
Molnupiravir, which will be branded as Lagevrio in Britain, is designed to introduce errors into the genetic code of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 and is taken twice a day for five days.
Dr. Richard is the Founder of MedVize, a personal medication management company and is the host of Rx Radio, a podcast dedicated the pharmacy profession. He is a pharmacist who is committed to helping individuals better manage their health and medications. He is passionate about advancing the profession of pharmacy with a focus on machine learning and blockchain technologies. His mission is to provide people with understandable knowledge to best manage their health while ensuring their medications are convenient, affordable, safe, and effective. Dr. Richard holds a Doctorate of Pharmacy from the University of Florida, and fun fact, although living in sunny Miami, Florida, he loves snowboarding.