'Lifeline for vulnerable' Covid pill could save thousands of lives

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'Lifeline for vulnerable' Covid pill could save thousands of lives

Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday said it could potentially save thousands of lives. The innovative treatment can ­be accessed by the country’

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Health Secretary Sajid Javid yesterday said it could potentially save thousands of lives. The innovative treatment can ­be accessed by the country’s most vulnerable from February 10.

Paxlovid is set to be the NHS’s second antiviral to shield those most at risk – a lifeline to those with weakened immune systems who do not get maximum protection from existing vaccines.

The Department of Health and Social Care said it will be made available to the nation’s extremely vulnerable aged 18 and over.

The health service’s first antiviral, molnupiravir, and a separate infusion-based antibody, sotrovimab, have already been given to around 10,000 high-risk patients.

The Department of Health ­says Britain has procured more antivirals per head than any ­other ­country in Europe, with more than 4.98 million courses ordered so far.

Mr Javid said: “This is an ­important milestone, especially as paxlovid has been shown in ­clinical trials to reduce the risk ­of hospitalisation or death for ­vulnerable patients by 88 per cent, meaning potentially thousands of lives could be saved.”

Latest Government data shows daily Covid cases, deaths and ­hospital admissions were down across the UK yesterday as the Omicron wave recedes.

There were another 89,176 ­positive tests in the past 24 hours, marking a seven per cent decrease on last Friday.

Health officials said there were 277 more coronavirus deaths ­registered, down by four per cent from last week.

Meanwhile, 1,732 were admitted with Covid on January 24, ­­12 per cent lower than the previous week and the 13th day in a row that admissions have fallen. Pfizer-made paxlovid, known as a protease inhibitor, is designed to block an enzyme the virus needs in order to multiply.

The drug stays in the body for longer when taken alongside another antiviral pill, ritonavir.

People in the highest risk groups have already been told by the NHS if they have a condition that will make them eligible.

The UK Health Security Agency says it has sent priority PCR tests to around 1.3 million people so they can access antivirals as soon as possible after symptoms begin.

Those deemed most at risk include cancer patients, people with Down syndrome, blood ­dis- orders, liver or renal disease, and stem cell transplant recipients.

News of the second antiviral comes as recruitment continues for the Panoramic study into the use of the first antiviral, molnupiravir.

Anyone over the age of 50 or between 18 to 49 with certain underlying health conditions can sign up to the study as soon as they receive a positive PCR or lateral flow test result.

Eddie Gray, chair of the Antivirals Taskforce, said: “The UK has secured millions of doses of antivirals for NHS patients, so we can keep the most vulnerable safe.” Doctors say getting new antiviral pills quickly to vulnerable adults testing positive will be crucial to have a major impact on hospitalisation and death rates.

But this week cancer charities say some patients have struggled to get access to the treatments.

Zack Pemberton-Whiteley, chief executive at Leukaemia Care, ­said they have heard from “many” patients who had still not received their letter or a priority ­PCR kit.

  • England’s R value has fallen below one for the first time since last March. It is now between 0.7 and 0.9, the Office for National Statistics said. It means that on average, every 10 people infected will infect between seven and nine others.



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