At least a quarter of Britons now eligible for Pfizer Covid pill

The UK regulator has backed Pfizer’s Covid-19 pill for people who could get severely ill from the virus

The UK’s medical regulator has given the green light to Pfizer’s coronavirus pill, Paxlovid. The drug will be made available to anyone deemed at risk of developing severe Covid symptoms, including those over the age of 60.

“Today we have given our regulatory approval for Paxlovid, a Covid-19 treatment found to cut Covid-19 related hospitalisations and deaths by 89% when taken within three days of the start of symptoms,” Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency chief executive, Dr June Raine, said in a statement on Friday.

The British regulator said it found the treatment to be safe and effective, but admitted it is not certain whether the emergence of the Omicron variant would impact efficacy.

The antiviral medicine works by inhibiting a protease required for virus replication. By preventing Covid-19 from multiplying, the body has a greater chance of successfully overcoming the virus.

The two active substances in Paxlovid, PF-07321332 and ritonavir, come in two separate tablets which are packaged together and taken together, twice a day for five days. 

In a clinical trial, Paxlovid was shown to be highly effective in preventing hospitalization and death in high-risk adults. Only 0.8% (three out of 389) of at-risk people who were given Paxlovid were hospitalized or died, compared with 7% (27 out of 385) in the placebo group.

The pills will be made available to anyone deemed at risk of developing severe disease, this includes Britons over the age of 60, those overweight and those with other health conditions. Some 23% of the British population is over 60, while 27% of men and 29% women were classified as obese in 2019. 

The country has ordered more than 2.75 million courses of antiviral treatment. Last month, the UK approved the Merck Covid pill, although it has so far been found considerably less effective. 

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