Novel antiviral treatment for COVID-19 administered to high-risk patients

Antiviral Treatment for COVID-19
© iStock/ljubaphoto

The NHS is administering a novel antiviral treatment for COVID-19 to patients who are most at risk, which improves symptoms within hours.

Thousands of patients with Covid, who are most likely to be admitted to hospital, are receiving a groundbreaking NHS antiviral treatment for COVID-19 at home that has been demonstrated to improve symptoms within hours.

COVID-19 treatments that minimise the risk of serious illness from the virus have been praised by at-risk patients as ‘brilliant.’ Such treatments have been provided to more than 32,000 patients since being introduced for patients outside of hospital in December.

What is the new antiviral treatment for COVID-19?

The most recent antiviral treatment for COVID-19, known as paxlovid, was discovered in trials to reduce both hospitalisation and deaths by 88%, and has been given to more than 6,000 patients already – with over 1,400 patients benefitting in the last seven days alone.

The NHS is committed to rolling out the latest, most innovative therapies as part of its long-term plan, and is deploying an armoury of COVID-19 treatments across England to help prevent infections from turning critical.

How are patients responding to this treatment?

One of the 32,000 patients to have benefitted from new antiviral treatment for COVID-19 includes Helen West, 56, from Walderslade, Kent, who was offered paxlovid.

Helen has ankylosing spondylitis, a rare long-term condition that includes the spine and other areas of the body becoming inflamed, painful, and stiff, thus requiring her to take medication that suppresses her immune system. After testing positive for COVID-19, she was contacted by her consultant at Medway NHS Foundation Trust and offered the antiviral developed by Pfizer.

Helen commented: “I initially declined paxlovid because I did not feel too bad. I had initially felt fine, just a bit tired, but two days in, I had an extremely sore throat, to the point where I could not swallow or talk, and I could barely walk.”

As her joints became painful, she changed her mind and phoned the hospital to request it.

“The process was so quick and efficient. Within six hours of taking the first tablet, I felt a very slight improvement. After four days, I was back to work. Covid hit me hard but paxlovid really made a positive difference to my recovery.”

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS National Medical Director, explained: “It is fantastic that since launching the latest antiviral treatment paxlovid just over a month ago, thousands of our most vulnerable patients have already had access to this latest cutting-edge, life-saving treatment.

“Antivirals are another weapon in our arsenal to reduce hospital admissions and fatalities amongst patients at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19 and needing hospitalisation – each and every person treated with the new drugs is testament to how the NHS is doing everything possible to protect those who are at most risk.

“Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect you and your loved ones from Covid, and to date, our world-leading vaccination programme has delivered over 119 million doses – including more than 32 million boosters – and I would urge anyone who has not yet been jabbed to come forward for your first, second, or booster jab as soon as possible.”

How does this treatment work and how can patients gain access to it?

The antiviral treatment for COVID-19 is being utilised to treat those identified to be at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill with the disease or being admitted to hospital in line with government guidance.

The antiviral treatment for COVID-19 works by preventing the virus from multiplying in cells, therefore inhibiting the virus from developing in the body, and helping patients to fight the infection and get better at a faster rate.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We have secured more antivirals per head than any other country in Europe – almost five million doses for NHS patients. Both of our groundbreaking antivirals – molnupiravir and paxlovid – are available to those most vulnerable to the virus directly through the NHS, and it is fantastic to see 32,000 patients reaping the benefits.

“For anyone not in this high-risk group, if you are aged 50 and over or 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition and test positive, you can sign up to the PANORAMIC study to potentially access this treatment too.”

Nearly five million doses of paxlovid and other antiviral treatments for COVID-19, such as molnupiravir, have been procured as part of the latest deal struck by the government.

It comes as the fastest and largest vaccination programme in NHS history continues, with the spring booster jab now underway for over-75s and high-risk people in England.


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