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The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the first antiviral to reduce the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate Covid-19, which can easily be taken at home.

The regulator has approved the oral antiviral Lagevrio to be “safe and effective” after a rigorous review.

The government’s independent expert scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines has also given its green signal.

Developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), Lagevrio works by interfering with the virus’ replication, preventing its multiplication and keeping virus levels low.

As per clinical trial data, the antiviral helps in reducing severity of the infection if taken during the early stages of infection.

The MHRA has recommended using it “as soon as possible following a positive Covid-19 test and within five days of symptoms onset”.

It is most effective for people who faces a risk factor such as obesity, older age (>60 years), diabetes mellitus, or heart disease.

Health and social care secretary Sajid Javid said: “This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment.

“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.”

He also encouraged people to come forward for their life-saving Covid-19 vaccine – “particularly those eligible for a booster”.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said that people can rely on the safety of the antiviral as “the MHRA has conducted a robust and thorough assessment of the data.”

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