Coronavirus patients will reportedly be offered the first at-home treatment for the virus by Christmas.
Lagevrio, also known as molnupiravir, was approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in a world-first last month.
The MHRA said the drug is safe and effective in people with mild to moderate Covid who are at extra risk from the virus.
Manufactured by Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), the drug has been hailed as a “game-changer” by health secretary Sajid Javid.
The health secretary is preparing to announce a national pilot of the anti-viral treatment to be rolled out before Christmas, The Sunday Telegraph reported.
The plans will see clinically vulnerable and immunocompromised patients delivered the treatment through NHS “Covid medicine delivery units” within 48 hours of testing positive, the paper said.
Local health chiefs were informed of the plans in a letter last week, it said.
For most, the drug will be consumed orally as a pill. It will be given twice a day to people who have recently tested positive for Covid and have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness, such as obesity, being over the age of 60, diabetes or heart disease.
Some patients may be offered the drug intravenously in hospital, the paper added.
Data from Merck’s clinical trial show that the drug, which was first developed to treat influenza, reduces the risk of hospital admission and death from Covid by 50 per cent in patients recently infected with the virus.
The UK has secured enough supplies of the drug to treat 480,000 people with the order set to be delivered to the UK by the end of the year.
The Sunday Telegraph cited Whitehall sources as saying anti-viral treatments are “even more important” in the face of the new omicron variant.
It comes as efforts to curb the spread of the omicron variant are heating up.
The number of detected cases of the new variant in the UK reached around 160 on Saturday, the health secretary said, leading to a last-minute change in travel plans.
Nigeria was added to the travel red list, which will go into effect from 4am Monday, 6 December.
On Saturday evening, Mr Javid tweeted: “From 4am Monday, only UK and Irish citizens and residents travelling from Nigeria will be allowed entry and must isolate in a managed quarantine facility.”
From 4am Tuesday, all people travelling to the UK from the country will have to take a pre-departure test, regardless of vaccination status, he added.
Announcing the approval of Lagevrio last month, Mr Javid said: “Today is a historic day for our country, as the UK is now the first country in the world to approve an antiviral that can be taken at home for Covid-19. This will be a game-changer for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the ground-breaking treatment.
“We are working at pace across the government and with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible.”