FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) treatment pill Paxlovid is seen in a box, at Misericordia hospital in Grosseto, Italy, February 8, 2022. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini/File Photo

Britain will expand access to Pfizer’s oral antiviral Covid-19 treatment to thousands more people by adding it to a trial to assess how best to use the drug in its highly vaccinated population, health secretary Sajid Javid said on Tuesday (April 12).

Paxlovid, a combination of Pfizer’s new pill with an older antiviral ritonavir, was made available to thousands of people with compromised immune systems in the UK in February.

Now the drug is being added to the Oxford University-led PANORAMIC national study in England, which is making antivirals available to a wide number of patients while collecting data on how the drugs should best be used in a vaccinated adult population.

Community pharmacy teams have been encouraged to support the ground-breaking Platform Adaptive trial of Novel antivirals for early treatment of Covid-19 In the Community (PANORAMIC) study by raising awareness among patients.

Paxlovid was shown to reduce the relative risk of death or hospitalisation by nearly 90 per cent in clinical trials of high risk individuals given the treatment for five days. Currently it is advised to be taken during the early stages of Covid, though last month was added to another trial for hospitalised patients.

“As we learn to live with Covid, the UK continues to lead the way in using cutting-edge treatments which have already saved the lives of many of the country’s most vulnerable patients,” Javid said in a statement.

He added: “The addition of Paxlovid to the ground-breaking PANORAMIC study is an important milestone and will help us understand who benefits most from these treatments.

“If you’re aged 50 and over or have an underlying health condition and test positive for Covid, I urge you to participate in this study by signing up as soon as you can.”

The PANORAMIC study is open to adults over age 50, or those aged between 18 and 49 who have underlying health conditions that may put them at higher risk for severe Covid.

Paxlovid is the second antiviral to be added to the trial after molnupiravir, a pill made by Merck & Co and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics that did not perform as well in its pivotal clinical trial.

The Department of Health and Social Care said that 20,000 people had joined the Panoramic study since patient recruitment started in December 2021 — to generate data on molnupiravir, with a further 17,500 people to be enrolled to access Paxlovid.

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