Experts condemn the Government for ordering only 250,000 anti-Covid tablets that significantly reduces the likelihood of contracting the virus.

Made by jab maker, Pfizer, the new antiviral drug Paxlovid has been shown to slash the risk of vulnerable adults being hospitalised or dying from Covid by up to 90 per cent.

Laboratory tests also showed that the pill taken twice daily offers an ‘effective’ defense against Omicron, the ultra-transmissible version currently dominating the UK.

Experts have wondered why 250,000 Paxlovid doses were ordered in the UK, compared to 40 million ordered in the USA.

Concerns about the shortage of doses were raised after 88,000 Covid-positive people in Britain were diagnosed in less than 24 hours. It is now a national pandemic.   

No10 has been accused of being “asleep at work” when ordering Paxlovid. This was especially considering the extensive red-tape reduction effort involved in procuring Covid jabs.

Now, they are asking for sufficient dosages in the UK so that GPs can prescribe them to all who get the virus.   

Pfizer said that its Covid pill, called Paxlovid (pictured), is up to 89 per cent effective at preventing hospitalisations and deaths when taken within the first few days of Covid symptoms

Pfizer claimed that the Covid pill called Paxlovid (pictured) is as effective as a hospitalization or death prevention medication when it’s taken within the first days of Covid symptoms. 

Lord Bilimoria (CBI president) told The Telegraph that he was personally lobbying British ministers to get millions of new antiviral medications for British citizens.

The government must order millions of courses instead of 250,000. That’s not nearly enough,’ he said. 


Is it possible? 

Pfizer’s drug falls under the umbrella of protease inhibitors.

It blocks an enzyme required by the coronavirus to grow. 

It is administered in combination with other antivirals, just like the HIV protease inhibitors.  

It is incredibly effective.  

Recent trials of the pill on more than 2200 adults showed that it reduced death and hospitalisation rates by 89% for those who are at risk from severe Covid-related illness. 

The risk of death and hospitalization by healthy, unvaccinated individuals and adults who are afflicted with at least one underlying illness was cut to 70%. 

This should be done as soon after you have caught Covid.

What is the UK’s total order?  

250,000 courses  

These drugs can truly be game-changing. Every GP across the country should have a supply of these tablets. When someone older is positive for a vaccine, they visit their GP who gives them the tablets to be taken five days later. This should be the second line of defense behind vaccinations.

We could have obtained these drugs earlier, in time for Omicron if we had been more proactive and supported the pharmaceutical firms. Please make the same efforts to antivirals as the vaccine taskforce if they can do this so fast. We shouldn’t be waiting for regulatory approval to get large orders in. Covid could lose its way if this happens.

The Pfizer pills are expensive at around £375 for each course, but Lord Bilimoria said rolling out the drug would show value for money in the long run.

“We are talking about saving the economy hundreds of millions of pounds from Covid disruptions.” It’s a no brainer,’ he said.

The £375 per course price tag puts the UK’s current Paxlovid bill at nearly £94million. 

Paxlovid works as a protease inhibitor by blocking an enzyme Covid uses in making copies of itself within human cells. 

According to the company, protease inhibitors were effective in treating HIV and Hepatitis C viruses as well, and can be used alone or together with other antivirals.

It would be administered twice daily to Covid-infected patients if approved. This is in the hope of decreasing the chance of developing serious illnesses. 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, (MHRA), will approve the use of the pills in Britain by the end the year.  

Eddie Gray, chairman of the UK antivirals taskforce, was asked yesterday on if  UK would be ordering more Paxlovid ahead of MHRA approval, and said: ‘We are going back and checking against our assumptions at this point in time with the new Omicron picture, and I’m not in a position at this point in time to say whether any action will result from that but we are constantly looking at it.’ 

Senior health officials told The Times on Thursday that antivirals were not as urgent as Kate Bingham’s vaccine taskforce.

According to one source, “Were they asleep at their wheel?” Probably.’

This shows the cumulative number of Omicron cases confirmed in the UK, broken down by nations

This is the total number of Omicron-related cases in the UK. The numbers are broken down by countries.

Another described the antiviral taskforce, which included Whitehall officials as a “clunky mess” that had too many cooks. 

Penny Ward from King’s College London, Professor of Pharmaceutical Medicine, was critical of the insufficient number of orders. She said that the UK had acted too late. 

When she suggested setting up an antivirals organization in March 2020, she stated that she had ‘distinctly remember wanting to throttle people’.  

“I have been talking about antivirals ever since the Covid epidemic began. The Antiviral Taskforce was created in April of this ‘for the love and glory of God’, she stated.      

One scientist said, however that there might be less antivirals than you think. He warned that Paxlovid anti-viral treatment could become ineffective if it is distributed across the entire population and Covid develops resistance. 

Professor of medicine Sir John Bell, from Oxford University, said the Government’s small orders of the antiviral was actually wise as and a combination treatment with other similar meant there was less chance the virus would evolve resistance 

Findings from Pfizer's trial of 2,200 adults showed those most at-risk from the virus who took Paxlovid within a few days of Covid symptoms were 89 per cent less likely to need hospital treatment or die. The graph shows that 0.7 per cent of patients who received the drug were hospitalised, compared to 6.5 per cent of of those who did not receive the pill being hospitalised or dying. No deaths were recorded among those who took Paxlovid

Pfizer found that those who received Paxlovid within the first few days of Covid symptoms had a 98% lower chance of dying or needing hospital treatment. It is evident that 0.7% of patients who took the drug received hospital treatment, while 6.5% were admitted to the hospital or died. Paxlovid did not cause any deaths.

Whitty estimates that Whitty’s average daily Covid hospital admission could exceed 4,500

The Omicron wave’s daily hospital admissions could rise to 4,500 daily, England’s chief medical officer said today. 

Professor Chris Whitty told MPs on the Health and Social Care Committee it is possible the 4,583 Covid admissions recorded on January 12 could be surpassed in the coming weeks as the steep increase in cases concentrates hospitalisations over a shorter period.

However, the increased protection of the population through the vaccine program may lead to shorter ICU stays and fewer patients needing to be admitted, he stated.

This means that even though daily hospitalisation numbers may hit record highs, the total number of patients in hospital at one time — which peaked at 39,254 on January 18 — won’t necessarily be surpassed. 

Professor Whitty explained that “if there are the same people coming in to the front door it does not necessarily translate into the same numbers at ICUs in hospitals later in the year.” 

He warned, however that the rising hospitalisations in coming weeks comes at a time where record-breaking numbers of NHS staff will be absent from work.

Professor Whitty stated that there would be both an increase and a decrease in supply in the health care system in a short period of time. 

“And that’s the real reason we all take this very seriously.” 

In a worst-case scenario, 22 per cent of over-65s who get infected would be hospitalised with the virus — the same proportion seen during the Alpha wave last winter, before the vaccines were rolled out, Professor Whitty said.

He said that the “top end” of his expectations would see a 6 percent case-to-hospital ratio. 

He said, “But it is possible to be better off with Omicron than two vaccines with Delta For Severe Disease.” 

“If there are a few other effective antivirals on the horizon, as we could in the next month, then we should combine those drugs,” he stated.

“And this could prove to have some interesting results. It is possible to spend large sums of money on Pfizer drugs and have little effect on severe diseases. 

Some viruses can make antivirals less effective than others. This happened with Tamiflu, an anti-influenza treatment for influenza in 2008/9. Early antivirals against HIV that were developed in the early 1980s also became ineffective when the virus evolved defenses.      

The MHRA has already approved the antiviral  treatment molnupiravir, sold by drug firm Merck and branded as Lagevrio.

This month Merck revealed their pill was just 30 per cent effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death among the vulnerable, lower than early estimates. 

 The UK has already ordered nearly twice as many courses of molnupiravir – 480,000 – compared to Pfizer’s pills. 

From this week onwards, more than 1million Britons at serious risk of becoming severely ill with Covid, like cancer patients on chemotherapy, will start to be offered molnupiravir at home.      

The spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care defended the government’s antiviral strategy.   

‘The UK was the first country in the world to approve the life-saving antiviral molnupiravir for use at home, and the taskforce’s rapid work to procure and deploy this treatment means it is already making a difference to hundreds of vulnerable people,’ they said. 

“It will keep looking at additional options to protect as many people from Covid and future variants.  

Pfizer had enrolled 2,246 patients at risk in its Paxlovid trial by November 4. Half were given the pills within five days after their first Covid symptoms. Phase two and three trials involved the other half.

Participants based more than 40% in America, the remainder in Europe, Africa or Asia. 

They found the drug, which is taken orally every 12 hours for five days, ‘significantly reduced’ the risk of hospitalisation or death by 89 per cent when taken within three days of symptoms, compared to the placebo group.

 And the drug still cut the risk of being hospitalised or dying by 88 per cent when it was taken five days after symptom onset.