How to get your hands on Covid pills to take at home if you get infected

YOU may be eligible to get Covid pills to take at home if you get infected.

Thousands will be able to get their hands on the drugs, which have been shown to be highly effective.

The medicines are not yet widely available. But with more research, it could become the norm to take a Covid pill to relieve symptoms.

Called antivirals, they target the virus at an early stage, preventing progression to more severe, or even critical, symptoms.

This will also help to relieve pressure on hospitals.

The UK Government has bought 2.23 million courses of a drug called molnupiravir (Lagevrio).

Clinical trials have suggested molnupiravir, made by the US company Merck and Ridgeback, can reduce the risk of hospital admission or death for at-risk adults by 30 per cent.

The Covid antiviral pill is already licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

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But in order to find out who will benefit most, experts need to examine it in a large group of Brits. 

It’s also not clear how the Omicron variant – which emerged after initial clinical trials were conducted – will have an impact on such drugs.

The good news is Omicron has already been shown to be milder for an individual who catches it compared with previous strains.

Booster vaccines further bolster defences, with a top-up dose shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation by more than 80 per cent.

How to get the Covid pills

The Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the antivirals were becoming “more widely available through a national study”, which was announced at the end of last year.

He has urged people over 50 or between 18 and 49 with an underlying health condition to sign up for the trial.

“They can sign up for this trial by visiting the website", he told the House of Commons on Thursday.

“The more people who sign up the more widely we can deploy these treatments.”

The trial for molnupiravir, called PANOMARIC, is being run by Oxford University and needs 20,000 volunteers from across the UK.

You can sign up for the trial regardless of your vaccination status and if:

  • You are currently experiencing Covid symptoms beginning in the last five days.
  • You have a positive PCR or lateral flow test.
  • You are aged over 50 or 18-49 with a listed preexisting condition, including morbid obesity, Down’s syndrome, chronic kidney disease and sometimes asthma.

Those consenting to be part of the study will be randomly selected to either receive the drug or a dummy version (placebo). 

Two different groups are needed so the study team can see any difference in the health of those who received the antiviral treatment compared to those who didn’t.

The drug will be delivered to you and over the next 28 days, you will have to answer a few questions online, or speak to someone on the phone.

If eligible, you may also be contacted by the study team or a local healthcare professional, for example your GP.

For more information, see the PANORAMIC website.

The Government has also bought another 2.75 million of ritonavir (Paxlovid), made by Pfizer. 

Ritonavir reduced the relative risk of Covid-associated hospital admission or death by 89 per cent in those who received treatment within three days of symptoms appearing.

The drug has been authorised for use in people aged 18 and above who have mild to moderate Covid-19 infection and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

Mr Javid said yesterday the UK had built the most advanced package of treatments against Covid in Europe, with almost five million courses of oral antivirals.

“We're already making these cutting edge antivirals and treatments available directly to patients,” he said.

“Last month we contacted 1.3 million of those at the highest risk from Covid-19, people such as those that might be suffering with cancer or people with Down syndrome, and we sent them a PCR test kit that they can keep at home.

“If they test positive, they are there be able to access either a monoclonal antibody or antiviral, which can then either be sent… to their home or they can access it through one of the 96 Covid medicine delivery units that now exist across England.”

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