UK begins search for new antiviral drug to treat coronavirus, supplement vaccines
London, April 21, 2021 (AltAfrica)-UK has begun a search for a new antiviral drug intended to treat coronavirus and supplement complement exixting covid vaccines
Consequently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday launched a government taskforce – modelled on the group that secured UK access to COVID vaccines – to identify the most promising new antiviral medicines.
The taskforce will be charged with supporting the development of new antiviral treatments through clinical trials to ensure they can be rolled out to patients as early as the autumn.
It is hoped the drugs could help combat any future rise in infections and limit the impact of new COVID variants, especially over the winter flu season.
Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, the prime minister said the action was intended as a “further line of medical defence” against coronavirus.
“This means, for example, that if you test positive there might be a tablet you could take at home to stop the virus in its tracks and significantly reduce the chance of infection turning into more severe disease,” he added.
“Or if you’re living with someone who has tested positive, there might be a pill you could take for a few days to stop you getting the disease yourself.”
The government’s aim is to have at least two effective treatments this year – either in a tablet or capsule form – that the public can take at home following a positive COVID test or exposure to someone with the virus.
The aim is for the treatments to stop infections spreading and to speed up recovery times.
The prime minister said, despite the UK’s “progress” in the fight against coronavirus, that “we cannot delude ourselves that COVID has gone away”.
Mr Johnson said he saw “nothing in the data now” that would cause him to “deviate” from his roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions.
But he also warned: “The majority of scientific opinion in this country is still firmly of the view that there will be another wave of COVID at some stage this year.
“And so we must – as far as possible – learn to live with this disease, as we live with other diseases.”
The government will look for the new Antivirals Taskforce to mirror the success of the Vaccines Taskforce, which secured the UK’s access to a range of vaccine candidates last year.
The UK has since had one of the world’s leading COVID vaccination programmes.
Appearing alongside Mr Johnson at Tuesday’s news conference, Dr Nikita Kanani – the medical director of primary care for NHS England – said the NHS was working internationally to identify effective treatments for COVID.
She thanked the more than one million people in the UK who have participated in a research trial so far.
“There are a number of treatments at the moment that are being tested and refined, and what we’ve found is that it’s taken about six days to go from a positive research finding to put that particular treatment into practice,” Dr Kanani added. Sky News