“World-first” trial on antivirals for COVID-19

Published: January 31 2022
Last updated: May 12 2023

A “world-first” study on antiviral treatments for COVID-19 is inviting people over the age of 50 and adults with an underlying health condition, who test positive for COVID-19, to sign up. This includes people with epilepsy.

The UK government is calling on all eligible people to join the study on what’s being called “cutting-edge” antiviral treatment, known as molnupiravir. Over 5,000 people have already enrolled.

The UK-wide study is being run by the University of Oxford. It is aiming to understand more about how to use this treatment in the NHS more widely, which is expected to happen later in the year, as well as who would benefit most.

Antivirals are medicines which can be taken as a tablet to help reduce the risk of hospitalisations or deaths resulting from COVID-19 infections. Molnupiravir has shown to reduce this risk in people with mild or moderate COVID-19 by 30%, which could save thousands of lives once it’s available on the NHS.

Vaccines are still the most important first line of defence, the government has stressed. However, after becoming infected with coronavirus, antivirals are used to slow the infection and reduce the severity of symptoms and likelihood of complications.

Molnupiravir was approved for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in November 2021. So far, no unexpected safety findings have been reported in clinical trials, according to the government. The manufacturer of molnupiravir has said no drug interactions have been identified, but that data are limited and there have been no specific studies on clinical interactions. Because of the way molnupiravir works, the manufacturer says it is unlikely that it would affect other medicines a person is taking.

The study is open to people experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who have had a positive PCR or lateral flow test, regardless of whether they’ve had COVID-19 vaccines or not. People can participate from home with no face-to-face visits, and will need to answer some questions online or through phone calls.

People can sign up for this study online on the Panoramic trial website.