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GHA plans to offer ‘gamechanger’ Covid pill when available

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The GHA is closely monitoring the UK’s rollout of a new anti-viral pill for Covid-19 that can be taken at home and which health officials want to make available here too.

The drug, called molnupiravir, is for people who have had a positive Covid test and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, such as obesity, being over the age of 60, diabetes or heart disease.

It will be “a gamechanger” for the most vulnerable people who contract Covid-19, the UK Government has said.

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency [MHRA] said last month that the drug is safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospital admission and death in people with mild to moderate Covid who are at extra risk from the virus.

But while the MHRA approved the drug, the pill has yet to be offered to UK patients by the NHS.

This week a UK-wide trial of the antiviral pill got under way. Molnupiravir is the first of several antiviral treatments that will be tested during the study, which is being led by the University of Oxford.

The trial will involve 10,600 people to test whether the pill reduces the need for the over 50s and those with underlying health problems to be admitted to hospital.

The first set of results from the trial are anticipated in early 2022.

Researchers will also be looking at whether the new Omicron variant has any implications for the drug’s effectiveness.

Just over a week ago, England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty warned its use may have to be reconsidered in the light of the emergence of Omicron.

The process under way in the UK is being closely followed in Gibraltar.

“The GHA plans to be able to offer molnupiravir when it becomes available,” a GHA spokesman said.

“At present, although the drug has been approved by the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency the drug has not yet been made available to the NHS or in the UK.”

“Once this occurs, supply will become available for UK Overseas Territories. It will not be available to us until it does.”

“As per other Covid-19 treatments, the GHA plans to adopt the evidence-based NHS clinical guidance framework for the use of molnupiravir as and when this is issued.”

“There has been no confirmation of timescale as yet.”

The drug, from Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), works by interfering with the virus’s replication.

It prevents the virus from multiplying, keeping levels low in the body and therefore reducing the severity of the disease.

The MHRA said the drug should be taken as soon as possible following a positive Covid-19 test and within the first five days.

The UK Government announced last month that it had secured 480,000 courses of molnupiravir after a study found it cut the rate of hospital admission and death by 50% in mild-to-moderately ill patients who had at least one risk factor for the disease.

In the study, the tablet was given twice a day to patients recently diagnosed with coronavirus.

“This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment,” Health Secretary Sajid Javid said at the time.

“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.”

“This antiviral will be an excellent addition to our armoury against Covid-19, and it remains vital everyone comes forward for their life-saving Covid-19 vaccine – particularly those eligible for a booster – to ensure as many people as possible are protected over the coming months.”

At the time of the announcement, Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, 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 anti-viral 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.”

“With no compromises on quality, safety and effectiveness, the public can trust that the MHRA has conducted a robust and thorough assessment of the data.”

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