A "groundbreaking" antiviral pill shown to reduce the chances of hospital admission among vulnerable people with covid by half will be made available in Jersey, it has been confirmed
Monupiravir, which was approved by the UK medicines regulator this morning, can be taken at home by those with at least one risk factor for developing severe illness from covid.
That includes people over the age of 60, as well as those who suffer from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and any other conditions that compromise their immune system.
The pill is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection. The medicines regulator advises its use as soon as possible after a positive covid-19 test is received and within five days of symptoms appearing.
Deputy Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ivan Muscat, who has been leading the island's response to the pandemic, said back in June that the battle against covid would not be over until widely-available and effective treatment is found.
Speaking to Express this afternoon, Dr Muscat said that the island did not currently hold stocks of the drug, but that it would become available via the NHS supply chain.
“The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the use of molnupiravir for over-18 year olds this morning, and we are waiting for more details about its availability and the protocol for its use,” he explained.
“Jersey does not have this drug in stock but will receive supplies from the NHS, proportionate to the size of the island. It will then be used – as laid down by the relevant protocols – to treat eligible patients.”
Pictured: Dr Muscat said Jersey should receive supplies of Monupiravir from the NHS.
While Dr Muscat described the approval of the antiviral as “an important step forward in dealing with the covid pandemic”, he emphasised that “it remains part of an overall response” and noted that “vaccination remains the most effective defence we have”.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid described the “ground-breaking treatment” as a “gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed”.
He added: “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
“This antiviral will be an excellent addition to our armoury against covid-19, and it remains vital everyone comes forward for their life-saving COVID-19 vaccine - particularly those eligible for a booster - to ensure as many people as possible are protected over the coming months.”
Produced by Merck, the drug is known commercially as Lagevrio and works by interfering with the covid-19 virus’s ability to replicate.Dr Julie Raine, MHRA CEO, commented: “Lagevrio is another therapeutic to add to our armoury against covid-19. It is also the world’s first approved antiviral for this disease that can be taken by mouth rather than administered intravenously. This is important, because it means it can be administered outside of a hospital setting, before covid-19 has progressed to a severe stage.
“With no compromises on quality, safety and effectiveness, the public can trust that the MHRA has conducted a robust and thorough assessment of the data.”
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, Chair of the Commission on Human Medicines, said:
“The Commission on Human Medicines and its covid-19 Therapeutics Expert Working Group has independently reviewed the data and endorses the MHRA’s regulatory approval of Lagevrio.
“In clinical trials, Lagevrio was found to be effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate covid-19 by 50%.
“Based on this and other data that has been carefully reviewed by the Commission and its expert group, it is clear Lagevrio is another safe and effective treatment to help us in our fight against covid-19.”
There are currently 583 recorded cases of covid in Jersey, and three people are in hospital with the illness. It's understood that the Government will be releasing further public health advice in the near future.
73% of the island's population has had at least one dose of the vaccine, and more than 19,000 people have had a third 'booster' shot.
This winter, the Government is also placing an emphasis on flu vaccination and more than 28,000 have been delivered.
46% of 0 to 16-year-olds had been immunised, 26% of 50 to 54-year-olds, 59% of 65 to 79-year-olds, and 59% of over-80s.
Health are encouraging islanders to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible because they say there is a possibility that there will be higher levels of flu this winter, given the virus was low in circulation last year due to covid restrictions.
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