Britain has today purchased an extra 4.25million doses of Covid pills at home to combat the Omicron variant.

Included in the order are 2.5million more doses of Pfizer’s Paxlovid, which has been shown to slash the risk of vulnerable adults being hospitalised by up to 90 per cent.

Merck has ordered an additional 1.75 million courses of Lagevrio, which is shown to lower the death rate by 30%.

These studies were limited to older Omicron variants. However, the manufacturers claim that the tablets should be effective against Omicron since they don’t target mutation-prone parts of the virus.

Both are given within 5 days of positive tests and targeted at those most in need. 

Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, praised the deal as “mammoth”. Orders will be received in 2022.

It is on top 480,000 Molnupiravir tablets and 250,000 Paxlovid pills purchased in October. 

Molnupiravir, which is being offered on the NHS to patients with immunocompromised or cancer patients and others at risk for severe Covidemia, has already been introduced.

Paxlovid might be cleared by the British medical regulators within weeks. The same procedure will apply. 

Pfizer's twice-a-day antiviral was shown in clinical trials to slash the risk of hospitalisation or deaths by 87 per cent in vulnerable and elderly patients. It found that 0.8 per cent of those given Pfizer's drug within three days of symptom onset were hospitalised and none had died by 28 days after treatment. For comparison, the hospitalisation rate stood at 7 per cent for the patients given a placebo. There were also seven deaths in the placebo group

Pfizer’s twice-a-day antiviral was shown in clinical trials to slash the risk of hospitalisation or deaths by 87 per cent in vulnerable and elderly patients. The study found that only 0.8% of patients who received Pfizer’s antiviral within 3 days of symptoms onset were admitted to hospital and no one died 28 days later. The hospitalization rate for patients who received a placebo was 7%. Seven deaths were also reported in the placebo-treated group.

Lagevrio was shown to cut hospitalisations and deaths by up to 50 per cent in early trials but Merck later revised this to 30 per cent. It works by disrupting the Covid virus's ability to reproduce in the human body

In early trials, Lagevrio showed a reduction in hospitalisations or deaths of up to 50%. Merck changed this number to 30% later. It disrupts the Covid virus’s reproduction in the human body. 

Health chiefs have not revealed the cost of the deal, but previously the molnupiravir pills were secured for £250million.

It suggests the Government has paid more than £1billion for the extra courses of treatment. 

Lagevrio will be tested in the Panoramic Study, an Oxford University-funded study that tests antivirals. 

Ministers urge everyone to register for these treatments, as scientists aim to enroll 10,000 patients.

Paxlovid — which is a drug made of PF-07321332 and antiviral ritonavir — will be added to the trial once it is approved by regulators.

According to sources, the treatment could begin in the first half of next year after more data has been gathered through the studies. 

What exactly is Molnupiravir?

Is it you?

Merck is the US’s largest pharmaceutical company 

Is it really that effective? 

In a recent study, almost 800 people were given the pill. It was found to reduce hospitalization and death by nearly half among those at highest risk of severe Covid-related illnesses. 

What has the UK spent on its orders?

480,000 Courses

How much does it cost? 

Merck has charged the US government about $700 (£500) per course of the drug. Though it is reported to cost just under £13 to make. 

It works.

The pill works by introducing errors into Covid’s genetic code to hamper its ability to multiply in human cells. 

Covid’s enzyme is used to create copies of its own DNA. Merck stated that the tablet will be able handle new variations as they develop.

Vaccines are becoming weaker as new strains of virus cause the vaccines to target the spike protein.

Paxlovid is a home-based combination that combines an antiviral known as ritonavir with an experimental drug called paxlovid, which can also be used for HIV/AIDS treatment.

Pfizer’s protease inhibitors are drugs that block the enzyme coronavirus requires to grow.

Ritonavir is used to give it. This ensures that the drug remains in active form for a longer time.

Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics jointly developed Lagevrio. This new mechanism is designed to create errors in the virus’s genetic code. 

Both pharmaceutical giants say their pills  should be equally effective at tackling new variants.

Vaccines are becoming weaker due to new strains. They target spike proteins and were developed to combat the original virus.

Because so much evolution takes place on spike protein, it is sometimes more difficult for the immune system of people who have been vaccinated to identify new variants.

These pills provide additional protection to the already-proven accelerated booster program. 

Mr Javid said: ‘Our Covid booster programme continues at unparalleled pace and it’s vital we further bolster our national response to the virus by ensuring access to the world’s best treatments too.

“This is an enormous deal for the UK Government, and the many patients who are going to be benefiting from the antivirals over coming months.

‘If you’re aged 50 and over or have an underlying health condition and test positive for Covid, sign up to the study as soon as you can and take advantage of this remarkable treatment.’

Javid declared earlier this week that more then a million jabs have been given in one day. But he also had to add the first and second doses of each to reach his goal.  

Antivirals Taskforce chairman Eddie Gray said: ‘Both antivirals in our current portfolio could be vital tools against Omicron – with current evidence showing they will be effective against the variant.

“The Antivirals Taskforce continues its efforts to ensure that people with HIV can quickly get the medicine they require.