How antivirals provide hope to vulnerable Covid patients
Pfizer says its recently approved Paxlovid drug has almost 90% success in preventing severe illness if taken soon after infection
The recent decision by regulators to approve the antiviral agent Paxlovid for use in the UK adds a formidable new weapon to the arsenal of treatments for Covid-19. Pfizer says the drug has almost 90% success in preventing severe illness in vulnerable adults if taken soon after infection occurs. Paxlovid is one of a growing repertoire of antiviral medicines – which also includes Merck’s agent Molnurpiravir – that can be given to people who have contracted the disease. Crucially, antivirals – which disrupt a virus’s ability to replicate inside an infected cell – provide hope that infected vulnerable individuals, including the very elderly and those with compromised immune systems, can be kept out of hospital.
It has taken two years of research for the first antivirals to be approved, with drugs becoming available more than a year after the first Covid vaccines were given in the UK. So why has it taken so long, comparatively, for effective antivirals to be developed? And what role will they play in the UK, which now has broad vaccine protection against Covid?