The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) have approved the use of molnopiravir, which has a trade name of Lageviro, an antiviral drug that can be used to treat Covid-19 patients. Following a review of the available evidence, the drug has been declared ‘safe and effective,’ a government press release advises.

The independent body which reviews the quality, safety, and efficacy of new medicines has analysed clinical trial data, and it is now deemed suitable to treat people with mild to moderate Covid-19, who are at risk of developing more serious or life-threatening complications.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said: “Following a rigorous review of the data by our expert scientists and clinicians, we are satisfied that Lagevrio (molnupiravir) is safe and effective for those at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and have granted its approval.”

She added: “Lagevrio is another therapeutic to add to our armoury against COVID-19. It is also the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before COVID-19 has progressed to a severe stage.

It is recommended to take Lagevrio within the first five days of a positive test result, or the onset of symptoms. The drug intercepts the replication of the virus in the body, to prevent it multiplying and developing into a severe or life-threatening condition.

It will be given to patients who are thought to be at high risk, including the obese, those over 60 years old, and people with heart disease or diabetes.

The Express reports that the pill could cut Covid cases by as much as 30%. A large-scale study run by the University of Oxford will run further trials on 10,000 participants. The data will examine how the treatment performs on vaccinated patients, and will be used by the NHS to plan the rollout.

A statement from the health department said: “Molnupiravir is a ground-breaking treatment that will help the most vulnerable and we are working at pace across the Government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy it to patients through a national study as soon as possible.”

Another antiviral pill developed by Merck is set to be released shortly. However, claims about its efficacy have been scaled back, after the initial announcement that it cut deaths by 50% was reduced to 30%. The new data has been submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug

Administration for review.

Antiviral pills are not intended to be used as a substitute to vaccinations, but to prevent deaths or severe illness in more vulnerable people. The news of the ground breaking treatments comes as a number of international borders are shut once more, amid fears of a highly mutated new Covid strain that has been identified in South Africa.

It is not yet known just how resistant the new variant is to existing vaccines. Uptake of vaccines has reportedly been low in South Africa, which may have increased the infection rate.

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