A new coronavirus antiviral pill could be offered to patients before Christmas in a bid to protect the most vulnerable from the new Omicron variant.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is reportedly set to launch a national pilot scheme of the Molnupiravir antiviral pill - also known as Lagevrio - in the UK.

The medicine was found to be safe and effective, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) announced at the beginning of November.

The pill reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate Covid who are at increased risk of developing severe disease.

Here is everything we know about Lagevrio.

Sajid Javid is reportedly set to launch a pilot scheme of the antiviral pill (


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What is Lagevrio?

Lagevrio (molnupiravir) is an antiviral pill developed by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD).

It is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection, so the MHRA recommends its use as soon as possible following a positive Covid-19 test and within five days of symptoms onset.

How does it work?

Lagevrio works by interfering with the virus' replication.

This prevents it from multiplying, keeping virus levels low in the body and therefore reducing the severity of the disease.

The pill aims to protect people against severe Covid-19 disease (


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How effective is the pill?

When the pill was approved for use in the UK a month ago, experts said Lagevrio is safe and effective for those at risk of developing severe illness.

Dr June Raine, MHRA Chief Executive, said: "Following a rigorous review of the data by our expert scientists and clinicians, we are satisfied that Lagevrio (molnupiravir) is safe and effective for those at risk of developing severe Covid-19 disease and have granted its approval.

"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."

Molnupiravir works by interfering with the virus' replication (


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Who will get it?

Molnupiravir can be taken by people who test positive for Covid-19 and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness.

The factors include obesity, being over 60, having diabetes or heart disease.

The pill can be taken at home.

Are there any side effects?

The most common side effects reported during trials and within 14 days of after the last dose of Lagevrio were diarrhoea, nausea, dizziness and headache, all of which were either mild or moderate.

Lagevrio is not recommended during pregnancy and in women who can become pregnant and are not using effective contraception, according to the European Medicines Agency.

Women who can become pregnant must use effective contraception during treatment and for 4 days after the last dose of Lagevrio.

Breastfeeding should be interrupted during treatment and for 4 days after treatment.

When was it approved in the UK?

The antiviral was approved in the UK last month, and according to The Sunday Telegraph, the Health Secretary could launch a national pilot scheme by Christmas.

When the pill was approved at the beginning of November, Mr Javid described the move as a "game-changer".

He said: "Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid-19. This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: "The UK has proven itself to be a world-leader in identifying and rolling out effective treatments for Covid-19, including through Government-backed national trials.

"The Government's antivirals taskforce was launched to identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to Covid-19 to take at home, stopping the infection spreading and speeding up recovery time.

"There are a number of exciting opportunities in the pipeline and we will provide further details in due course."

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