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Thousands of people in Wales will have access to a new antiviral medicine which can significantly reduce their risk of being admitted to hospital with COVID-19.

First published:
14 February 2022
Last updated:

People who are at the greatest risk of becoming seriously ill if they test positive for the virus include people with cancer, people with Down’s syndrome, people who have had a transplant and people who are taking medicines that suppress their immune system.

New COVID treatments have been available in the community since December to help prevent this group of people developing more serious disease if they contract coronavirus.

To date, more than 700 patients from all parts of Wales have been successfuly treated with monoclonal antibody treatments or the antiviral medicine molnupiravir. 

They will also now be offered the new combination treatment nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid) which unlike the monoclonal antibody treatment sotrovimab which is given in hospitals can be taken at home. 

Clinical trials show when Paxlovid is taken within five days of COVID symptoms developing it reduced the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 by 88 per cent. 

People who are eligible for treatment with Paxlovid will be contacted by telephone call or text message from Wales’ National Antiviral Service within 48 hours of reporting a positive lateral flow test result or a positive PCR test. 

Specially trained pharmacists will ask questions about the medicines they take to determine which treatment is the most clinically appropriate for them.  If Paxlovid is an appropriate treatment, it will be delivered to their home within 24 hours.  If Paxlovid isn’t suitable they will continue to be offered sotrovimab.

People who are not in the highest risk group are still able to access the antiviral treatment molnupiravir through the PANORAMIC study and Paxlovid is being added to the study later this month. The study is open to anyone over the age of 50 or between 18 and 49 with certain underlying health conditions.  

Across the UK, more than 8,000 people have been recruited to the study since it began in December.

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said:

“I am delighted we are increasing the range of treatment options available to the most vulnerable people in Wales if they get COVID-19.

“Antiviral medicines are more effective if people are treated as soon as possible, which is why we are now contacting people after they report a positive lateral flow test result as well as after a PCR test. 

“For most people having a full course of vaccination and a booster offers the most protection against severe illness, however a small number of people do not have a full response to the vaccine.  Antiviral and antibody treatments offer further protection for this group”

Alana Adams, Principal Pharmacist at the National Antiviral Service said:

“More than 700 people in Wales who are at very high risk have already been treated with antiviral and antibody treatments to protect them from the most severe consequences of COVID-19.

“As experts in medicines the pharmacists working in the National Antiviral Service have the knowledge and expertise to help people decide which treatment option is most appropriate for them.

“Paxlovid has been shown to have a greater effect on reducing hospitalisation than the antiviral medicines we use already, and unlike antibody treatments it can be taken at home.”