The first at-home Covid pill, Molnupiravir, could be available by Christmas in a bid to combat the Omicron variant.
United Kingdom Secretary of State for Health Sajid Javid is reportedly set to launch a national pilot of the “game changer” oral treatment – the Molnupiravir anti-viral pill, also known as Lagevrio – in the coming weeks, The Sun reports.
Last month the UK’s drugs regulator declared the pills as “safe and effective” at slashing hospitalisations and deaths in people who have caught the killer bug, becoming the first country in the world to license its use – a move described as a “game-changer” by Mr Javid.
The NHS is expected to deliver courses of the tablet to clinically vulnerable and immunosuppressed patients within as little as 48 hours of them testing positive for COVID-19.
It said hospitals and GPs have been told a series of Covid medicines delivery units were being established to ensure the treatment gets to patients as quickly as possible once it is confirmed they have the virus.
But just over a week ago, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned its use may have to be reconsidered in the light of the emergence of Omicron.
“I think we probably need to do a rethink of it just to make sure with the new variant, we’re targeting in the right direction”.
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “The UK has proven itself to be a world-leader in identifying and rolling out effective treatments for Covid-19, including through government-backed national trials.
“The government’s antivirals taskforce was launched to identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 to take at home, stopping the infection spreading and speeding up recovery time.
“There are a number of exciting opportunities in the pipeline and we will provide further details in due course.”
US drug firms Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics revealed their antiviral drug Molnupiravir cut rates of severe Covid by 50% in a study.
Study results were taken from tests of the drug on 775 people who had recently tested positive for the virus but were not seriously ill.
They showed 7.3% of people given Molnupiravir ended up going into hospital, compared to 14.1% of people who were not given the drug.
The World Health Organisation has revealed that no one has died from the Omicron “super mutant” Covid strain amid growing fears of a Christmas lockdown.
The organisation has warned, however, it could take weeks to determine how infectious the variant is, whether it causes more severe illness and how effective treatments and vaccines are against it.
“We’re going to get the answers that everybody out there needs,” WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said.
Original content from News Australia. Note: Content has been edited for style and length.
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