The United Kingdom has approved the second antiviral against Covid-19, Pfizer’s pill for adults with mild to moderate infection and at high risk of worsening the disease.
The UK acts amid record highs of Covid-19 cases as the Ômicron variant spreads rapidly.
Based on the data, the Paxlovid pill is most effective when taken during the early stages of Covid-19, the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said on Friday, recommending its use within five days of the first symptoms.
This month, Pfizer said that Paxlovid was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients, and recent laboratory data suggest the drug maintains its effectiveness against the Ômicron variant.
The MHRA also said it works with Pfizer, along with Germany’s BioNTech on one of the leading Covid-19 vaccines, to monitor Paxlovid’s effectiveness against Ômicron.
“We now have one more antiviral drug to treat Covid-19 that can be taken orally instead of intravenously. That means it can be given outside of a hospital setting,” said MHRA head June Raine.
Paxlovid is made up of two active substances that come in the form of two separate tablets, taken together twice a day for five days. The UK has guaranteed more than 2.75 million units of the drug.
The pills are part of a class of drugs called protease inhibitors, currently used to treat HIV and hepatitis C, which work by preventing the virus from replicating.
Rival Merck’s anti-Covid-19 pill was approved by the UK last month. But according to clinical trials, the drug only reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients by about 30%.