The treatments will help people with compromised immune systems and underlying health conditions, thereby protecting those most at risk over the winter months

COVID antivirals

The DHSC has announced that, from 8 December 2021, thousands of the UK’s most vulnerable people will be among the first in the world to receive life-saving, cutting-edge antiviral and antibody treatments in the community.

In the PANORAMIC study—a new, national study run by the University of Oxford in collaboration with GP hubs—around 10,000 people in the UK who are at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 and who have received a positive PCR test will receive the treatment molnupiravir at home.

The study, which will allow medical experts to gather data on the potential benefits of this treatment for vaccinated patients and help the NHS to plan the roll-out of the antiviral drug to more patients in 2022, is open to anyone in the UK who:

  • has received a positive PCR test
  • feels unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 that started in the last 5 days
  • is aged 50 years and over, or 18–49 years with an underlying health condition that puts them at greater risk of severe COVID-19.

In addition, from 16 December 2021, other individuals at high risk of severe symptoms of COVID-19, such as people who are immunocompromised, those with cancer, or those with Down’s syndrome, will be able to access either molnupiravir or the novel monoclonal antibody Ronapreve (casirivimab/imdevimab) outside of the study.

In clinical trials, molnupiravir has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk, nonhospitalised adults with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 by 30%, whereas Ronapreve reduced this risk by 70%.

The DHSC says that the treatments will help people with compromised immune systems, for whom vaccines can be less effective, thereby protecting those most at risk from the virus over the winter months, decreasing the number of hospitalisations, and reducing pressures on the NHS.

Regarding the plans, Professor Stephen Powis, NHS England’s National Medical Director, said: ‘The roll-out of monoclonal antibodies and antivirals represents another weapon in our arsenal to reduce the risk of patients at highest risk becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalisation from COVID-19.

‘It represents another achievement for the NHS following our world-leading vaccination programme that has now delivered 100 million vaccinations in England, including over 17 million booster vaccines.’

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Lead image: Grispb/dtok.adobe.com

Image 1: Grispb/dtok.adobe.com