The UK has secured large orders of two promising Covid-19 antiviral pills as part of a plan to roll out treatment among elderly and vulnerable groups to help ease pressure on the NHS during the winter.
The deals, made by the Antivirals Taskforce, give the UK access to 480,000 courses of MSD’s molnupiravir pill, which could be available for use as early as mid-November, and to 250,000 courses from MSD. Pfizer’s antiviral offering, known as PF-07321332, which is not expected to be approved until early next year.
Merck, the U.S. arm of MSD, announced earlier this month that an interim analysis of data from Phase 3 clinical trials showed molnupiravir halved the risk of hospitalization and death from mild infection. at Covid. Some 7.3 percent of patients on medication had died or were hospitalized, compared with 14.1 percent of those receiving placebo.
The UK Medicines and Health Products Regulatory Agency is undertaking an ongoing review of molnupiravir, while Pfizer’s antiviral pill entered Phase 3 trials in September.
Sajid Javid, the Secretary for Health and Social Affairs, said he was “delighted” with the announcement, adding that the UK “may soon have a new defense in our arsenal with two new antiviral drugs we have obtained. “.
Eddie Gray, Chairman of the Antivirals Taskforce, said: âThis is a very important development in our mission to find antivirals for people exposed to Covid-19, supporting the renowned vaccination program and the NHS over the next few months, âadding that the treatments could provideâ life-saving protection âto patients during the winter.
When the Antivirals Task Force was formed in April, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to get two antiviral treatments in oral or capsule form by the end of the year.
There has been a fierce demand for MSD’s antiviral pill since its results were announced. The UK is the sixth country to confirm an order – the second only in size after the US order of 1.7 million courses.
Health officials have yet to decide how the treatments will be rolled out, but they are expected to be distributed through primary care and pharmacies to elderly and vulnerable groups.