An antiviral drug did not reduce hospitalisations or deaths in Covid patients but it did aid recovery, researchers found.

Molnupiravir (brand name Lagevrio) reduced recovery time and helped symptoms by reducing the viral load or level of infection.

Some 25,000 study participants were given the drug within five days of symptoms starting.

Those chosen for the trial were at a higher risk of death or hospitalisation from Covid.

They were aged over 50 years in good health or between 18-50 with underlying health conditions that made them clinically more vulnerable.

The participants were randomly assigned to receive either molnupiravir or the standard NHS care.

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It was the first antiviral drug studied as a treatment for Covid in the community - which means it was taken at home rather than in a medical setting.

Chris Butler, Professor of Primary Care in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said: "Finding effective, safe and scalable early treatments for COVID-19 in the community is the next major frontier in our research response to the ongoing worldwide pandemic.

"It is in the community where treatments could have a massive reach and impact. But decisions about who to treat should always be based on evidence from rigorous clinical trials that involve people who would most likely be prescribed the drugs." 

Former deputy chief medical officer for England Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Nottingham and study co-author, added: "While molnupiravir was originally found to work well to reduce hospitalisation in patients with Covid, these were unvaccinated patients.

"This latest research has repeated the exercise in the highly vaccinated population, demonstrating that the vaccine protection is so strong that there is no obvious benefit from the drug in terms of further reducing hospitalisation and deaths.

"However, symptom duration and virus shedding are both markedly reduced, and we have to wait much longer to know if there will be any discernible effects on long COVID.

"This study is an excellent example of why large-scale, rigorous, prospective trials like this are so essential in assessing the effectiveness of drugs to ensure that they are only used in patients where there will be a tangible benefit to their care."

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Molnupiravir was the first treatment tested in the PANORAMIC trial led by the University of Oxford and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). 

The findings are published in The Lancet journal.

The study will now continue to investigate new antiviral medications such as Paxlovid.

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This story was written by Miranda Norris, she joined the team in 2021 and covers news across Oxfordshire as well as news from Witney.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris

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