FILE PHOTO: People receive a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Winding Wheel Theatre, Chesterfield, Britain February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Carl Recine/File Photo

UK regulator has approved a second oral antiviral for early treatment of Covid-19 in high-risk adults, after molnupiravir called Paxlovid.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave its nod for a new treatment called Paxlovid (PF-07321332 and ritonavir), after finding it safe and effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in people diagnosed with mild Covid-19 infection.

Developed by Pfizer, Paxlovid prevents the multiplying of virus, helping the body to overcome the infection.

A clinical trial for the treatment in high risk individuals revealed that a five-days course of Paxlovid reduces the risk of hospitalization and death by 89 per cent.

It further revealed that Paxlovid is most effective when taken in the early stage of infection.

Dr June Raine, MHRA chief executive, said: “We now have a further antiviral medicine for the treatment of Covid-19 that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This means it can be administered outside a hospital setting, before Covid-19 has progressed to a severe stage.”

She expected the new treatment to prove “life-saving” for people who are more vulnerable to the infection.

The regulator is also working with Pfizer to find whether the omicron variant has any impact on Paxlovid’s effectiveness.

Commenting on the approval, health secretary Sajid Javid, said: “The UK has been a world leader at finding and rolling out Covid-19 treatments to patients. This is further proved by the MHRA being one of the first in the world to approve this life-saving antiviral.

“We are also leading the whole of Europe in the number of antivirals we’ve bought per person – with over 2.75 million courses of this antiviral secured for NHS patients by the Antivirals Taskforce.”

He added that booster campaign, testing and antiviral defences will put  the UK in “the strongest possible position” to fight against the Omicron variant, Javid said.

Meanwhile, the MHRA has advised that patients’ current medications should be carefully reviewed before prescribing Paxlovid, as it may interact with certain other medications.

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