Government proposes antiviral treatment for patients with positive COVID test

The proposed move, which would take effect in the autumn, would see anyone testing positive for COVID-19 or in contact with a confirmed case being prescribed antivirals in a bid to limit transmission of infection and shorten recovery times.

Under the government proposal, people who test positive for COVID-19 would be given antivirals to take at home. | GETTY IMAGES
Under the government proposal, people who test positive for COVID-19 would be given antivirals to take at home. | GETTY IMAGES

According to government experts, antivirals could help to reduce the impact of future waves of COVID-19 and of new variants, adding to the protective effects of the vaccination campaign. 

To this end, the government has set up an antiviral taskforce with the goal of identifying at least two effective oral antivirals that could be taken at home by anyone receiving a positive COVID-19 test result or anyone directly exposed to someone with the virus.

It is hoped that new treatments could be deployed 'as early as autumn' potentially coinciding with vaccination centres beginning a drive to administer millions of booster doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

Search for novel antivirals

The taskforce will 'search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials' - and aim to support manufacture of the products within the UK.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said: 'The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds.

'Our new antivirals taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.'

Development speed key to response

Chief scientific officer Sir Patrick Vallance said: 'The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against COVID-19 has been critical to the pandemic response.

'Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern.

'The taskforce will help ensure the most promising antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible.'

The government will soon launch a process to identify a chair for the taskforce, with further details of the plans to follow.

Want news like this straight to your inbox?
Sign up for our bulletins

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in

More from MIMS

Study links short-course oral steroids to severe adverse effects in children

Study links short-course oral steroids to severe adverse effects in children

Results from a recent study showed that use of a single...

Live updates: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK

Live updates: Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the UK

Use our timeline to follow the latest coronavirus developments...

Drug shortages - live tracker

Drug shortages - live tracker

Use our constantly updated shortages tracker to check...

Chloramphenicol eye drop contraindication advice published

Chloramphenicol eye drop contraindication advice published

Advice on the contraindication for use of chloramphenicol...