Antiviral drugs help 30,000 vulnerable patients recover from Covid-19 infections
Around 30,000 vulnerable Covid-19 patients in England have been treated with antiviral drugs which improve symptoms “within hours”, according to the NHS. The health service said it purchased nearly five million doses of Paxlovid and other “cutting edge” antivirals, including Molnupiravir, under the government’s latest deal.
Paxlovid, developed by Pfizer, was approved for use in the UK in December and found in trials to reduce hospital admissions and deaths by 88%. More than 5,000 patients in England have already received Paxlovid, with more than 1,200 patients benefiting from it in the past week alone, according to the NHS.
Molnupiravir, which clinical trials have shown reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 30%, was approved in November 2021. Use of the drug was introduced for out-of-hospital patients in December.
The treatments were hailed by at-risk patients as “brilliant”. When university professor Cathy Merry, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, fell seriously ill with Covid, a clinic at the Royal Derby Hospital dispatched a taxi with Paxlovid within hours to her home in Duffield, near Derby.
The 49-year-old, a professor of stem cell biology at the University of Nottingham, said she felt more normal after four days of treatment and dreaded to think how she would have felt without it. Professor Merry said: “The availability of these treatments is just brilliant and we are so lucky to have them free on the NHS.
“The staff at the hospital have always been brilliant, but to handle this so effectively is absolutely, incredibly good care. I have lived in the US and we are so lucky to have the NHS and the brilliant care they give to all of us.
His consultant, Dr Francis Kynaston-Pearson, said the new drugs gave him “great hope”. He said: “Healthcare professionals and patients have come to terms with the impact of Covid-19 and how it has reshaped our lives.
“This is especially true for patients, like Cathy, who are at higher risk because their immune systems are weaker due to their condition or the treatments used to control them. It gives me great hope to see new treatments such as Paxlovid being introduced to support these vulnerable patients to enable them to start leading normal lives again. The pandemic may not be over yet, but with new developments like this, hopefully we can soon expect to enjoy life the same way we did before the pandemic.
The treatment stops the virus from multiplying in cells, helping patients fight infection and recover faster. It is being used in line with government guidelines to treat people identified as being most at risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid or being admitted to hospital.
However, it will be prescribed by clinicians on a case-by-case basis. Professor Stephen Powis, National Medical Director of the NHS, said: “It’s fantastic that since the launch of 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 deaths among patients most at risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 and requiring hospitalization. Each person treated with the new drugs is a testament to how the NHS is doing everything possible to protect those most at risk. »
Free lateral flow tests for most members of the public ended yesterday (Friday April 8), with the exception of over-75s and over-12s with compromised immune systems. But people eligible for Paxlovid will be given the tests to keep at home in case they develop symptoms, the NHS said.
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