COVID-19 Oral Antivirals: UK Set to Reinvent the Wheel!

A pretty astounding announcement came from the UK this April 20th, with a prime minister seeming to have landed from another planet and having absolutely no clue of what he is talking about. 

For sure, his advisers, mostly coming from big pharma, know extremely well that effective antivirals for COVID-19 already exist. In the past months, there has been for example a substantial lobby effort in the UK in favor of Ivermectin, through the “BIRD” initiative. 

Yet, it seems that Boris Johnson, who nearly lost his life to COVID-19, and even got vaccinated for it, even if he didn’t need it at all, as already immune for the disease, is kept totally in the dark by his advisers when it comes to already existing outpatient therapies.

Similarly as in countries such as Canada, the denial of early outpatient treatment for COVID-19 in the UK is a health catastrophe that has been going on for a year now. See for example the analysis by the undersigned in France-Soir last June.

What appears clear from the media release and Boris Johnson’s speech is that the UK authorities have zero interest in approving re-purposed, generic drugs for treating COVID-19 early. Only “new antivirals” are to be considered by the task force, not the existing ones.

Here are excerpts of Johnson’s remarks.

“The majority of scientific opinion in this country is still firmly of the view that there will be another wave of COVID at some stage this year and so we must as far as possible learn to live with this disease as we live with other diseases.”

“Today I want to announce that we hope there will be a further line of medical defense …  Today we’re creating a new Antivirals TaskForce to search for the most promising new medicines and support their development through clinical trials with the aim of making them safely and rapidly available as early as the autumn.”

Johnson does not mention specific drugs here, but it’s clear that only drugs already in the pipeline, such as Merck’s molnupiravir, stand a chance of making it that early. 

Remember that Merck is a major producer of Ivermectin, but the company has stated it’s not interested in offering the drug for COVID-19, claiming it does not work. Merck already secured a lucrative US$ 356 million deal from the US government, that will provide just 60,000 to 100,000 doses of the experimental drug.

From his speech, which focuses very much on football (soccer) and even on haircuts (another concept he seems totally unfamiliar with :), Johnson seems however to understand the logic of outpatient treatment:

“This means for example that if you test positive, there might be a tablet you could take at home to stop the virus in its tracks and significantly reduce the chance of infection turning into more severe disease.”

“Or if you’re living with someone who has tested positive there might be a pill you could take for a few days to stop you getting the disease yourself.”

The problem is that Johnson is in total denial of the very fact that such preventative and early treatments already exist, and also that, usually, they are only effective when made of a combination of drugs, such as Ivermectin, Doxycycline and Zinc, as already extensively discussed in this blog. 

See also in this article the reference to Mexico, which has dramatically reduced infections and deaths, by about 80%, in just 3 months, following the use of Ivermectin-based home treatment kits, given to those testing positive to COVID-19.

Predictably, the UK is heading again with single-drug placebo controlled clinical trials, which usually don’t yield any positive results. The UK’s scientific dogma – a clear oxymoron yet a sad reality – prevents them from testing multi-drug therapies, even if there is considerable scientific evidence that’s it’s precisely those that work for COVID-19.

The only and highly notable exception has been the “STOIC” trial which led to inhaled budesonide to be very recently “considered to be prescribed by healthcare professionals on a case-by-case basis” by the NHS.

The use of placebos is also totally unwarranted, as one should not use placebos for a deadly disease when there are treatments in existence. It’s a possible violation of both the Helsinki principles and the Nuremberg code.

Johnson concluded his remarks by stating:

“By focusing on these antivirals, these new antivirals, we hope to lengthen the UK’s lead in medicines and in life sciences and to give ever greater confidence to the people of this country that we continue on our path towards freedom we’ve taken a big step again this month reopening significant parts of our country and for many people this last week has brought the first glimmerings of a return to normality having a pint, having a haircut, making that trip to the shops every day.”

Note that the UK claims to have discovered dexamethasone for COVID-19, while the drug, as well as other corticosteroids, usually seen as more effective, were already widely used in other countries. 

According to Professor Pierre Kory, who is the lead medical doctor in the Frontline Covid Care Alliance, but who was also the first to challenge the recommendation against corticosteroids for COVID-19, the dexamethasone dosages tested in the UK were also insufficient, yielding to sub-optimal therapeutic outcomes for numerous patients around the world.

As for the “new antivirals,” it’s not clear yet what the composition of the task force will be and which will be the distinguished professor from whatever prestigious university to proudly announce to the world, along with Boris Johnson, that the UK has just reinvented the wheel!

PS: here is a noteworthy commentary on the UK announcement by one of the world’s leading academics when it comes to early outpatient treatment:

Press release – April 20

Government launches COVID-19 Antivirals Taskforce to roll out innovative home treatments this autumn

The Antivirals Taskforce will identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 to stop the infection spreading and speed up recovery time.

  • New Antivirals Taskforce could identify and deploy innovative COVID-19 treatments as early as autumn
  • Treatments could be taken at home after a positive test or exposure to COVID-19 to reduce transmission and speed up recovery
  • Drugs could help combat a rise in infections or new variants over the winter flu season

A new Antivirals Taskforce has been launched by the government to identify treatments for UK patients who have been exposed to COVID-19 to stop the infection spreading and speed up recovery time.

The taskforce will search for the most promising novel antiviral medicines that can be taken at home and support their development through clinical trials to ensure they can be rapidly rolled out to patients as early as the autumn.

The taskforce will also look at opportunities to onshore the manufacture of antiviral treatments.

The aim is to have at least 2 effective treatments this year, either in a tablet or capsule form, that the public can take at home following a positive COVID-19 test or exposure to someone with the virus.

This will be another vital tool to combat any future increase in infections and limit the impact of new variants, especially over the flu season later this year.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

  • The success of our vaccination programme has demonstrated what the UK can achieve when we bring together our brightest minds.
  • Our new Antivirals Taskforce will seek to develop innovative treatments you can take at home to stop COVID-19 in its tracks. These could provide another vital defence against any future increase in infections and save more lives.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:

  • The UK is leading the world in finding and rolling out effective treatments for COVID-19, having identified dexamethasone, which has saved over a million lives worldwide, and tocilizumab.
  • In combination with our fantastic vaccination programme, medicines are a vital weapon to protect our loved ones from this terrible virus.
  • Modelled on the success of the vaccines and therapeutics taskforces, which have played a crucial part in our response to the pandemic, we are now bringing together a new team that will supercharge the search for antiviral treatments and roll them out as soon as the autumn.
  • I am committed to boosting the UK’s position as a life science superpower and this new taskforce will help us beat COVID-19 and build back better.

The antivirals could be used alone or in combination with one another in order to increase effectiveness and reduce the risk of further mutations.

The new taskforce will sit alongside the government’s existing Therapeutics Taskforce, which will continue its vital work to identify and supply treatments found to be effective in clinical trials, for all stages of a patient’s exposure and response to COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK has proven itself to be a world-leader in identifying and rolling out effective treatments for COVID-19 – including the world’s first treatment dexamethasone, which has since saved 22,000 lives in the UK so far and an estimated million worldwide.

The UK’s renowned life sciences sector makes it the ideal base for the brightest of global innovators to research and progress cutting-edge treatments for COVID-19 through the clinical trials process here in Britain.

Sir Patrick Vallance, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, said:

  • The speed at which vaccines and therapeutics such as dexamethasone have been identified and deployed against COVID-19 has been critical to the pandemic response.
  • Antivirals in tablet form are another key tool for the response. They could help protect those not protected by or ineligible for vaccines. They could also be another layer of defence in the face of new variants of concern.
  • The taskforce will help ensure the most promising antivirals are available for deployment as quickly as possible.

Dr Nikita Kanani, Medical Director of Primary Care for NHS England, said:

  • Alongside caring for 400,000 COVID-19 patients since the start of the pandemic, the NHS has saved lives around the world through its contribution to developing the first ever treatment for COVID-19, dexamethasone, as well as administering the first vaccine for the virus, outside of clinical trials.
  • The NHS has put research into reality at record speed during the pandemic and this taskforce will now help us to identify and roll out even more new, convenient treatments for patients with COVID-19.

Background information

A competition to identify a chair for the Antivirals Taskforce will be launched shortly, and further details on the structure of the taskforce will be set out in due course.

On 16 June, the government-funded RECOVERY trial became the first to identify the benefits of dexamethasone in reducing mortality by 20% in patients requiring oxygen support and 35% for ventilated patients, following a readout from the RECOVERY trial and later supported by the WHO and REMAP-CAP.

Through securing a supply chain and stockpile of the drug, we were able to ensure quicker distribution to tackle the effects of COVID-19.

Dexamethasone has since shown to have saved 22,000 lives in the UK so far and an estimated million worldwide.

More recently, the REMAP-CAP trial demonstrated the benefits of tocilizumab and sarilumab, as well as the RECOVERY trial, which found tocilizumab reduced the relative risk of death for patients on oxygen by 14%, when administered in addition to dexamethasone.

The Therapeutics Taskforce alongside RAPID C-19 worked swiftly to ensure that patients were able to receive treatment where clinically appropriate straight away.