A new oral antiviral pill for Covid has been approved for use in the UK after it was found to be safe and effective. 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found that the pill was effective at reducing the risk of hospitalisation and death in people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are more at risk of becoming seriously ill. 

Here's what you need to know about the new drug...

What is the new Covid pill?

The new pill which has been approved by the MHRA in the UK is called Lagevrio or molnupiravir.

Coming in pill form, the drug is for oral consumption and can be swallowed. 

It works by stopping the virus from multiplying, causing Covid levels in the body to stay low and therefore preventing more serious illness. 

Safety checks by two bodies, the MHRA and the government’s independent expert scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, found that the drug reduced serious illness and hospitalisations in those most at risk. 

The MHRA recommends the drug is used as soon as possible following a positive test result and within 5-days of symptoms starting. 

It will be available soon for people who have mild to moderate COVID-19 and at least one risk factor for developing severe illness. Such risk factors include obesity, older age (>60 years), diabetes mellitus, or heart disease, as per authorisation. 

The drug has been described as a "gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed" by health secretary Sajid Javid.

When will the new Covid drug become available?

According to health secretary Sajid Javid, the government is "working at pace" and "with the NHS to set out plans to deploy molnupiravir to patients through a national study as soon as possible."

He added: "This antiviral will be an excellent addition to our armoury against COVID-19, and it remains vital everyone comes forward for their life-saving COVID-19 vaccine - particularly those eligible for a booster - to ensure as many people as possible are protected over the coming months."