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UK becomes world’s first to approve antiviral pill for Covid-19 treatment

LONDON – The UK has become the first country in the world to approve an antiviral pill to treat Covid-19.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced the approval, stating that the antiviral Lagevrio (molnupiravir) is safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at increased risk of developing severe disease.

The approval, it says, follows a rigorous review of its safety, quality and effectiveness by the UK regulator and the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, making it the first oral antiviral for the treatment of COVID-19 to be approved.

“Developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), Lagevrio works by interfering with the virus’ replication. This prevents it from multiplying, keeping virus levels low in the body and therefore reducing the severity of the disease,” it said in a statement.

Based on the clinical trial data, Lagevrio is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection and so the MHRA recommends its use as soon as possible following a positive COVID-19 test and within five days of symptoms onset

Molnupiravir has been authorised for use in people who have mild to moderate COVID-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness. Such risk factors include obesity, older age (>60 years), diabetes mellitus, or heart disease.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said, “Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for COVID-19. This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment.

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