Over 50s who test positive for Covid-19 are now eligible to receive the UK’s second antiviral drug, Paxlovid, through the PANORAMIC trial.

Previously, the antiviral was only available to those most at risk of serious illness from Covid, including the immunocompromised, such as people with cancer or Down’s syndrome.

But now, a further 17,500 will be eligible to take the drug, with 450 able to sign up for the study each day.

Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, has been found to reduce the relative risk of Covid-19-associated hospitalisation or death by 88% in those who received treatment within five days of developing symptoms.

Health secretary, Sajid Javid, commented: ‘As we learn to live with Covid, the UK continues to lead the way in using cutting-edge treatments which have already saved the lives of many of the country’s most vulnerable patients.

‘The addition of Paxlovid to the ground-breaking PANORAMIC study is an important milestone and will help us understand who benefits most from these treatments.

‘If you’re aged 50 and over or have an underlying health condition and test positive for Covid, I urge you to participate in this study by signing up as soon as you can.’

Those who enroll in the PANORAMIC study after testing positive for Covid will be randomly allocated to receive either an antiviral treatment in addition to standard NHS care, or standard NHS care only, the Government said.

The antiviral molnupiravir – offered to patients through the PANORAMIC study – and monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, are both already being used to treat almost 10,000 high-risk patients in the UK, according to DHSC figures.

The Government has procured 2.75 million courses of Paxlovid – otherwise known as PF-07321332+ritonavir  – as well as 2.23 million courses of molnupiravir.

In December, PSNC highlighted the potential for community pharmacies in England to distribute Covid-19 oral antiviral treatments to patients in the future, despite pharmacies not being involved in initial plans to give access to the most vulnerable.