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People with underlying health conditions urged to sign up to COVID-19 antiviral study

Posted on January 25th 2022

Adults over the age of 50 or with an underlying health condition who test positive for COVID-19 are being urged to sign up for a world-first study into life-saving antiviral treatments.

At least 6,000 more participants are needed for the cutting-edge treatments through the PANORAMIC study.

This is so that expert scientists can understand more about how to deploy these treatments in the NHS more widely later in the year – including who would benefit most from receiving antiviral treatments for COVID-19.

Antivirals are medicines which can be swallowed as a tablet to help treat people with COVID-19 infections to reduce the risk of hospitalisations and death. Molnupiravir, which is currently being deployed through the study, has shown to reduce this for at risk, non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 by 30% – potentially saving thousands of lives once the drugs are available to the NHS.

Anyone over the age of 50 or between 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition can sign up to the study as soon as they receive a positive PCR or lateral flow test result. They need to be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms that began in the last five days to be eligible to enrol.

The UK-wide study, run by the University of Oxford and launched at the start of December 2021, currently has around 4,500 trial participants signed up, but needs thousands more to sign up as soon as possible to gather the data necessary. This will ensure medical experts can learn more about the potential benefits these treatments bring to vaccinated patients, and will help the NHS to develop plans for rolling out the antivirals to further patients later this year.

It is open to anyone living in the UK who meets the following criteria: 

  • Have received a PCR positive test for COVID-19 or feel unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 that started in the last five days; and
  • Are aged 50 and over, or 18 to 49 years old with an underlying medical condition that can increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19. 

While vaccines remain the most important first line of defence against the virus, antivirals are used after someone contracts the virus to slow it down, make symptoms less severe and complications less common.  

The antiviral, molnupiravir, that is part of the PANORAMIC trial, was granted approval for use by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in November 2021, and so far no unexpected safety findings have been reported in clinical trials.