Millions more doses of Antiviral drugs secured

Four and a quarter million doses of antiviral drugs have been ordered to protect people from the pandemic.

  • Two important deals have been brought forward to combat the Omicron variant and protect patients
  • Government urges all over 50s and most vulnerable to sign up to the national study as soon as they test positive for COVID-19

Millions more cutting-edge antiviral treatments for COVID-19 have been secured for NHS patients as the UK government signs 2 new contracts to help tackle Omicron.

The significant new deals have been accelerated following the emergence of the Omicron variant to protect vulnerable people over the coming months. The move will help reduce hospitalisations and ease pressures on the NHS.

Antivirals are treatments used to either treat those who are infected with a virus or sometimes protect exposed individuals from becoming infected. They target the virus at an early stage, preventing progression to more severe, or even critical, symptoms.

The 2 new contracts are for 1.75 million additional courses of Merck Sharp and Dohme’s (MSD) molnupiravir (Lagevrio®) and 2.5 million additional courses of PF-07321332/ritonavir (Paxlovid™) from Pfizer which will be available from early next year and are both expected to be effective against Omicron.

The 4.25 million courses are in addition to the procurement of 480,000 courses of molnupiravir and 250,000 courses of PF-07321332/ritonavir announced in October this year.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

"Our COVID-19 booster programme continues at unparalleled pace and it’s vital we further bolster our national response to the virus by ensuring access to the world’s best treatments too.

This is a mammoth deal for the UK government and for patients across the country that are set to benefit from these antivirals over the coming months.

If you’re aged 50 and over or have an underlying health condition and test positive for COVID-19, sign up to the study as soon as you can and take advantage of this remarkable treatment."

Molnupiravir is already being rolled out to hundreds of patients through the national study PANORAMIC, run by the University of Oxford in close collaboration with GP hubs. The government is urging everyone aged 50 and over, or between 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition, to sign up to the trial if they test positive for COVID-19.

Last week, deployment  of these antiviral drugs to those at highest risk began outside of the clinical trial – for example, people who are immunocompromised or cancer patients – after they’ve tested positive. And as of Monday the antibody treatment sotrovimab (Xevudy™) was also being made available to this group of patients.

You can read more details of these contracts here.


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