Tablet to treat Covid symptoms goal of new government taskforce

A tablet taken to combat symptoms of coronavirus is the goal of a new anti-virals taskforce being planned by the government, it has been reported.

The pill would be taken as soon as someone tests positive for the disease, with the aim blocking the development of serious symptoms.

The new body will be modelled on the Vaccines Taskforce, whose actions last year underpinned the success of the current rollout.

Its target would be to convert the latest science on anti-viral therapeutics into approved treatments available to the NHS “within months”, a source told the Mail on Sunday.

Currently, the drugs used to treat Covid are usually given only once a patient has developed serious symptoms.

These include dexamethasone, a cheap steroid found to cut deaths among those on ventilators by more than a third.

Another steroid, hydrocortisone, also improved survival rates among the critically ill.

“The success of the vaccine programme has shown what our country can achieve, identifying and deploying cutting edge medical treatments to save lives and beat the pandemic,” the source said.

“Matt [Hancock] wants to replicate those achievements with anti-viral drugs.

“The new taskforce will be another crucial tool and is a further step towards making the UK the best place in the world for life science.”

Pfizer trials oral pill

It comes after Pfizer announced the beginning of a phase one trial of an oral pill to be taken after once symptoms begin.

The company, which is conducting the trial in the US, says the drug has already shown strong potential against the Covid-19 virus and other viruses in laboratory experiments.

Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, has said that: “Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of Covid-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic.”

Whitehall mandarins are reportedly seeking senior figures from private industry to head the new task force, with no appointments yet agreed.

The set-up would follow the model of the Vaccines Taskforce, which was led by biochemist turned venture capitalist Kate Bingham, who successfully secured access agreements to six different vaccines across four formats.

The government source said Ms Bingham is not in the frame to serve on the new anti-virals taskforce.

More Stories
Gogglebox’s Sophie jokes Meghan and Harry will end up on Flog It ‘in matching fleeces’