GPs could prescribe first antiviral to treat COVID-19 after drug wins UK approval

The first oral antiviral for use against COVID-19 has been approved by the UK's medicines regulator and is set to be prescribed in the community to reduce infected patients' risk of hospitalisation or death.

Antiviral to be prescribed on NHS (Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

The MHRA has approved the antiviral Lagevrio (molnupiravir), one of two products health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said recently were in the pipeline.

The drug - which is the first approved antiviral for use against COVID-19 that can be taken orally in pill form - is effective at reducing risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate infection with the virus who are at high risk of developing severe disease, the MHRA said.

Trials have found the drug works best when administered to patients in the early stages of infection, and the MHRA has recommended its use 'within five days of symptom onset'.

Antiviral treatment

The regulator made clear that the treatment is 'not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19' - and the government is yet to confirm how it will be rolled out for use in the NHS.

However, the drug has been authorised for use in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 and 'at least one risk factor for developing severe illness', such as obesity, age over 60 years, diabetes, or heart disease.

Mr 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.

NHS rollout

'We are working at pace across the government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible.'

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: 'Following a rigorous review of the data by our expert scientists and clinicians, we are satisfied that Lagevrio (molnupiravir) is safe and effective for those at risk of developing severe COVID-19 disease and have granted its approval.

'Lagevrio is another therapeutic to add to our armoury against COVID-19. It is also the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before COVID-19 has progressed to a severe stage.'

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Just published

Young doctor

BMA poll could see 'demeaning' junior doctor title ditched

The BMA could drop the term 'junior doctor' in favour of 'resident doctor' to better...

Houses of parliament

Tory peer calls PA fears 'Luddism' and claims most GP visits 'incredibly straightforward'

Most GP appointments are 'incredibly straightforward' and fears over a wider role...

UK money

NHS pension contribution overhaul to go ahead from April

Changes to NHS pension contribution rates, which will see the top earners required...

BMA sign

BMA warns £800m lost from GP contract since 2019 as last-ditch talks continue

BMA negotiators remain in talks over an improved GP contract offer for 2024/25 just...

GP consultation

GPs still under pressure to prescribe black triangle drug inclisiran

GPs are continuing to face pressure to prescribe the black triangle drug inclisiran...

BMA chair Professor Phil Banfield

Lords urged to block legislation for GMC to regulate PAs

The BMA has urged peers to block legislation that would make the GMC responsible...