Patients testing positive for COVID-19 could be offered antivirals from autumn

People who test positive for COVID-19 or who have had contact with a confirmed case could be prescribed antivirals later this year after a government programme to identify new treatments.

COVID-19 testing (Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images)
COVID-19 testing (Photo: SOPA Images/Getty Images)

An antiviral taskforce launched by the government aims to identify 'at least two effective treatments this year, either in a tablet or capsule form, that the public can take at home following a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to someone with the virus'.

Antivirals could help reduce the impact of future waves of COVID-19 and of new variants, government experts say, adding to the protective effects of the vaccination campaign. Treatments available in a form patients who test positive - or who have had contact with a case - can take at home could help limit transmission and speed up recovery, the government hopes.

GPonline understands that decisions on whether GPs or other primary care prescribers could be expected to prescribe any new antivirals identifed by the taskforce could hinge on supplies, logistics and the precise nature of any treatment available.

COVID-19 antivirals

But the government has said it hopes that new treatments could be deployed 'as early as autumn' - potentially around the time that vaccination centres begin a drive to administer millions of 'booster' doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The taskforce will 'search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials' - and aim to support manufacture of the products within the UK.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: 'The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds.

'Our new antivirals taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.'

Vaccine development

Chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance said: 'The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against COVID-19 has been critical to the pandemic response.

'Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern.

'The taskforce will help ensure the most promising antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible.'

The government will soon launch a process to identify a chair for the taskforce, with further details of the plans to follow.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

Under 40s to be offered alternative to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Under 40s to be offered alternative to AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

Patients aged 30-39 will be offered an alternative to the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19...

GPs per patient down 10% in just five years, NHS data reveal

GPs per patient down 10% in just five years, NHS data reveal

The number of fully-qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs per patient in England...

Supportive model must replace harmful CQC inspections, BMA chair warns

Supportive model must replace harmful CQC inspections, BMA chair warns

CQC inspections that ‘divert time away from patient care’ and ‘instil fear’ among...

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

UK COVID-19 vaccination programme tracker

GPs across the UK are playing a leading role in the largest-ever NHS vaccination...

A 'tsunami' of work is drowning general practice: GPs speak out about a profession at its limit

A 'tsunami' of work is drowning general practice: GPs speak out about a profession at its limit

Rocketing workloads created by huge backlogs of cases and continuing COVID-19 disruption...

Slight increase in GP workforce during past year, but number of partners continues to fall

Slight increase in GP workforce during past year, but number of partners continues to fall

The GP workforce grew by 0.4% in the year to March 2021, but the number of GP partners...