Thousands of people will benefit from the latest Covid antiviral treatment
Thousands of people in Wales will have access to a new antiviral drug which can significantly reduce their risk of being hospitalized with Covid-19.
People who are at the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill if they test positive for the virus include people with cancer, people with Down syndrome, people who have had a transplant and people taking medications that suppress their immune system.
New Covid treatments have been available in the community since December to help prevent this group of people from developing more serious illness if they contract coronavirus.
To date, more than 700 patients from all parts of Wales have been successfully treated with monoclonal antibody treatments or the antiviral drug molnupiravir.
They will also now be offered the new combination treatment nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid) which, unlike the monoclonal antibody treatment sotrovimab given in hospitals, can be taken at home.
Clinical trials show that when Paxlovid is taken within five days of developing Covid symptoms, it reduces the risk of hospitalization from Covid-19 by 88%.
People eligible for treatment with Paxlovid will be contacted by phone or text from the National Antiviral Service for Wales within 48 hours of reporting a positive lateral flow test result or a positive PCR test.
Specially trained pharmacists will ask questions about the medications they are taking to determine which treatment is clinically best for them. If Paxlovid is an appropriate treatment, it will be delivered to their home within 24 hours. If Paxlovid is not suitable, sotrovimab will continue to be offered.
People who are not in the highest risk group can still access the antiviral treatment molnupiravir through the PANORAMIC study and Paxlovid will be added to the study later this month.
The study is open to anyone over the age of 50 or between the ages of 18 and 49 with certain underlying health conditions. Across the UK, more than 8,000 people have been recruited to the study since its launch in December.
Health and Social Care Minister Eluned Morgan said: “I am delighted that we are increasing the range of treatment options available to the most vulnerable people in Wales if they contract COVID-19.
“Antiviral drugs are most effective if people are treated as soon as possible, which is why we are now contacting people after they report a positive lateral flow test result as well as after a PCR test.
“For most people, a full vaccination and a booster provides the best protection against serious disease, but a small number of people do not fully respond to the vaccine. Antiviral and antibody treatments offer additional protection for this group”
Alana Adams, senior pharmacist at the National Antiviral Service, said: “Over 700 people in Wales at very high risk have already been treated with antiviral and antibody treatments to protect them from the most serious consequences of Covid-19.
“As drug experts, pharmacists working within the National Antiviral Service have the knowledge and expertise to help people choose the most appropriate treatment option for them.
“Paxlovid has been shown to have a greater effect on reducing hospitalizations than the antiviral drugs we already use, and unlike antibody treatments, it can be taken at home.”