The UK Government is to roll out innovative COVID-19 treatments for patients to use at home in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
It has launched a new Antivirals Taskforce to help identify the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be used at home and will support their development through clinical trials to ensure they can be rolled out to patients by autumn – aiming to have two ready by this time. The taskforce will also look at opportunities to onshore the manufacture of antiviral treatments.
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.”
The taskforce will sit alongside the government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce, which will continue its vital work to identify and supply treatments found to be effective in clinical trials, for all stages of a patient’s exposure and response to COVID-19. The treatments will be in tablet or capsule form and could be used alone or in combination with one another in order to increase effectiveness and reduce the risk of further mutations.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The UK is leading the world in finding and rolling out effective treatments for COVID-19, having identified dexamethasone, which has saved over a million lives worldwide, and tocilizumab. In combination with our fantastic vaccination programme, medicines are a vital weapon to protect our loved ones from this terrible virus.
“Modelled on the success of the vaccines and therapeutics taskforces, which have played a crucial part in our response to the pandemic, we are now bringing together a new team that will supercharge the search for antiviral treatments and roll them out as soon as the autumn. I am committed to boosting the UK’s position as a life science superpower and this new taskforce will help us beat COVID-19 and build back better.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, 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.”