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Britain Approves 1st Coronavirus Drug Which shorten recovery time

Regulators have approved Britain’s first medicine to treat coronavirus – a drug intended for use on Ebola victims.

Clinical trials suggest remdesivir can shorten recovery time for Covid-19 sufferers by an average of four days, from 15 to 11.

Formal licence approval takes months but the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said the anti-viral drug can be prescribed before this is complete.

Hospital doctors can give remdesivir to Covid-19 patients aged over 12, while clinical trials with manufacturer Gilead Sciences continue.

The move boosts efforts to find an effective treatment and improve NHS capacity to cope with a potential second wave of the disease.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing: “This is probably the biggest step forward in the treatment of coronavirus since the crisis began.

“These are very early steps but we are determined to support the science and back the projects that show promise.”

He spoke as daily deaths in the UK fell to 134, the lowest for six weeks. And there were no new deaths in Northern Ireland for the first time since the pandemic started. Department of Health data put the full toll at 37,048.

But 47,300 coronavirus deaths have been officially recorded once Office for National Statistics data where Covid-19 is mentioned on death certificates is combined with NHS England data on deaths following a positive test.

The news on remdesivir comes after a hospital in Weston-super-Mare had to stop taking in patients over the bank holiday when it hit maximum capacity amid an influx of Covid-19 cases.

The drug reduces the recovery time for Covid-19 patients (Image: Getty)
The drug reduces the recovery time for Covid-19 patients (Image: Getty)
Controlling the risk of the NHS being overwhelmed is the key requirement for lifting lockdown measures. And getting patients treated and out of hospital faster frees up vital intensive care beds.Mr Hancock said we are “leading the world in clinical trials”, adding: “We will be prioritising use of this treatment where it will find the greatest benefit.”

President Donald Trump has said the US is putting its “full power and might” behind remdesivir too.

It is the first approval by the MHRA under its Early Access to Medicines Scheme, which allows legal access to unlicensed medicine.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “We are committed to ensuring patients can have fast access to promising new treatments for Covid-19.”

Prof Stephen Evans, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: “It’s a little too early to say it will become the standard of care. The large trials still ongoing should clarify that.”

ONS data shows total excess deaths – above what would be expected compared to previous years – are now almost 60,000 since the start of the outbreak. The NHS postponed all “non-emergency” treatments in March, while fear of catching the virus stopped many vulnerable people dialling 999.

Experts have warned these extra deaths include many people quietly dying at home who would have survived with full access to services. Deaths in care homes from all causes are still twice as high as the yearly average.

Meanwhile, Mr Hancock also said local lockdowns will be part of the track-and-trace strategy being rolled out next month. And deals have been signed to make two billion items of personal protective equipment in the UK.

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