Thousands of vulnerable people are to receive cutting-edge antiviral and antibody treatments for coronavirus (COVID-19).
A national study called PANORAMIC, run by the University of Oxford in close collaboration with GP hubs, has now been launched and is recruiting around 10,000 UK patients at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 to have the opportunity to take the treatment molnupiravir at home after receiving a positive PCR test.
Those at highest risk who test positive for the virus – for example, people who are immunocompromised, cancer patients or those with Down’s syndrome – will also be able to access either molnupiravir or the novel monoclonal antibody Ronapreve outside of the study from 16 December 2021.
This will ensure the treatments can help protect those most at risk from the virus over the winter months, reducing the number of hospitalisations and therefore pressures on the NHS. This will be significant for those who have compromised immune systems and for whom the vaccines can therefore be less effective.
Molnupiravir has shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk, non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 by 30% and Ronapreve reduced the risk by 70%.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: "The UK is a world leader in rolling out innovative treatments to the patients who need them and today is a historic milestone in our battle against the virus, deploying the first medicines vulnerable people will be able to take outside of hospital and in the comfort of their own homes to protect themselves.
"This opens up a new era for the treatment of COVID-19, one where we can begin to cover every phase of contracting this deadly disease – whether it be before you catch it, just after you catch it, if you develop symptoms or if you require hospital care."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: "Throughout this pandemic, we have rapidly identified and deployed some of the world’s best treatments for COVID-19 to UK patients – including dexamethasone, tocilizumab and sarilumab.
"Antivirals will be a vital intervention for years to come, helping to protect those that can’t mount the same antibody response to the vaccines. This is really positive news for the future of our response to COVID-19.