What is molnupiravir (Lagevrio)? The first oral antiviral for COVID-19

person in a blanket opening a blister pack of medicine capsules

A new drug has just been approved by the MHRA as a treatment for COVID-19 in at-risk, non-hospitalised adults — everybody say hello to Molnupiravir, which is also known as Lagevrio.


Named after Thor’s hammer (yes, Marvel fans, that Mjölnir), this medication is thought to be able to strike a fatal blow at the heart of COVID-19 and similar viruses, but is the mythology really all that?


Let’s have a closer look at Molnupiravir, Lagevrio, and how they could signal a turn in the tide in the fight against coronavirus.



How effective is Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) at treating COVID-19?

The latest press release from the MHRA has advised that Lagevrio capsules were found to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 by up to 50% in at-risk, non-hospitalised adults.


This figure was discovered during the clinical trials this medication went through, the results of which were reviewed by The Commission on Human Medicines (CHM).


Both of these government bodies have advised that Lagevrio is a safe and effective treatment that could change the lives of immunocompromised and otherwise vulnerable patients as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.



How does Molnupiravir work?

Molnupiravir is a type of medication known as an antiviral, which naturally means that it works against viruses.


Other common types of antivirals include Tamiflu, which is used for the flu, and Aciclovir, which is used for cold sores.


Antivirals like Molnupiravir work by keeping viruses from multiplying within your body, effectively stopping their spread so your immune system can deal with the virus more effectively.


They basically work with your immune system, evening the playing field so your body can fight off the virus it’s dealing with and get you better.



How will Lagevrio antivirals treat COVID-19?

Lagevrio is a medication that uses Molnupiravir as its active ingredient, making it an antiviral medication.


Like other antivirals, it works by keeping the COVID-19 virus from multiplying so your body can fight it off.


This is incredibly helpful for patients who have a weakened immune system or are vulnerable for any other reason, as it gives their natural defences a helping hand when fighting coronavirus.


This is why Lagevrio can help to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death in at-risk patients with mild to moderate cases of COVID by up to 50%.


If we’re going back to the Marvel references, your immune system is Thor and Molnupiravir is his hammer, he’s pretty great without it, but he can do a whole lot more with it!


"COVID-19" spelled out in gold tablets and capsules on a black background


Is Molnupiravir used for any other conditions already?

At the moment, Molnupiravir isn’t licensed to be used for any other medical conditions, although this may change in future.


The drug was originally developed to be used as a treatment for flu and other coronaviruses, which are similar to the COVID-19 we all know so well at this point.


When the search began for an effective COVID-19 treatment, Molupiravir was considered and went through rigorous testing to find out whether it could help, and lo and behold, here it is today!


In future, and after more testing, scientists may find that it can be used as an effective treatment for other viruses and get it approved for use in these conditions too, but at the moment it’s a treatment for COVID and COVID alone.



Who will need to take Lagevrio?

Lagevrio will need to be taken by patients who have tested positive for COVID-19, are in the early stages of the illness (within 5 days of the onset of symptoms), and have at least one risk factor for developing serious illnesses.


It works best in patients who have mild to moderate cases of COVID, which is why it’s going to be very important that it’s administered early on.


It can be taken by patients who have been vaccinated for Coronavirus, but it shouldn’t be seen as a replacement for your vaccination or booster jab.


As Lagevrio is available in capsules, it can be taken by most patients with very little supervision, which means it will be able to be taken by patients who haven’t been admitted to the hospital yet.


Naturally, this could be a huge relief to the strain the NHS has been placed under by the pandemic, freeing up hospital beds and reducing the pressure on healthcare staff while making it easier for patients to self-isolate.


A white banner with a rainbow on it reading "Thank you NHS" hanging from a lamp post in front of a stone wall and flowering bushes


Who won’t be able to take Lagevrio?

Although Lagevrio is currently suitable for a large number of patients, there are some people who won’t be able to take this medication, even if they are confirmed to have COVID-19.


The patient information leaflet for this medication states that it can’t be taken by those under the age of 18, those who are pregnant, and those who are allergic to any of its ingredients.


These measures are in place to protect those who may be vulnerable to any potential adverse effects of Molnupiravir until further testing can be carried out.


For example, testing has not been done to see whether Molnupiravir transfers into breastmilk, so breastfeeding parents will need to use formula or another method of feeding baby while they’re taking Lageviro and for 4 days after their final dose.


If you have any concerns, the best thing to do is to speak to your doctor. They will take all of your circumstances into account before making a decision about whether Lageviro is right for you and writing a prescription.



Will I need a prescription for Molnupiravir?

Yes, you will need a prescription for Lagevrio or Molnupiravir, as they’re classed as prescription-only medicine until further notice.


This medication will only be prescribed to adults who have tested positive for COVID-19 and will be restricted to vulnerable patients, to begin with, as the demand for this medication will be high and will need to be prioritised accordingly.


People who will be classed as being at risk of developing serious illness will include those who are:



a yellow stethoscope, a blue surgical mask, and some red heart candies on a light green background, someone holding a red paper heart in their hand in the bottom right hand corner


Can I buy Molnupiravir capsules online?

At the time of writing, Molnupiravir and Lagevrio capsules are not available for purchase online.


This is because it is a prescription medication and will only be supplied to suitable patients, with vulnerable patients taking priority.


As this drug is manufactured and rolled out, it will likely go to the NHS first before making its way to private practitioners, some of whom may operate online.


If we are able to make Lagevrio available to our patients in time, we will of course let you all know, but again, we will only be able to provide this medication to those who have gone through a consultation with our healthcare team and meet the criteria necessary for a prescription.



How much will Lagevrio cost?

We’re not sure how much Lagevrio is going to cost at this point, as it’s a brand new drug, but a part of the cost will depend on how you obtain it.


If you are prescribed Lagevrio by the NHS, you will only be charged the usual prescription cost that you’d have to pay for any medication, or nothing at all if you’re exempt from prescription charges.


On the other hand, if you are prescribed Lagevrio by a private practitioner, you will need to pay whatever they choose to charge for it, taking the cost of the drug and your consultation into account.


At this stage, it’s impossible to know how much that will be, but as soon as we know, we’ll be letting our patients and customers know too.


Coins pouring out of a clear glass jar which has been tipped over onto a brown surface


Now we all know a lot more about Molnupiravir, Lagevrio, and how this new drug going to make a huge difference in COVID-19 treatment.


Everything is looking positive, so now we’ve just got to wait, stay safe, and see how it all develops.


Keep an eye out folks, because this medication may be proving why it’s been named for the strength of Thor’s hammer sooner than we think!


Laura Henderson - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 15 March 2023
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