A treatment for coronavirus that cuts deaths by a fifth for those who are immunosuppressed is to be available from next week, the Government has announced.
It is heralded as being able to benefit thousands of patients, with its initial rollout aimed at those whose bodies struggle to build up an antibody response to the virus, either through catching it or being given the vaccine.
These include people who are immunocompromised; for example, those with certain cancers or autoimmune diseases.
Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary said: “We have secured a brand new treatment for our most vulnerable patients in hospitals across the UK and I am thrilled it will be saving lives from as early as next week.
“The UK is leading the world in identifying and rolling out life-saving medicines, particularly for Covid-19, and we will continue our vital work to find the best treatments available to save lives and protect the NHS.”
Now it has been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), it will be used to treat patients who are aged 50 or over, or are aged 12 to 49 and are considered to be immunocompromised.
It contains two monoclonal antibodies, a protein which binds to substances in the body, and has been used to treat cancer cells by carrying drugs or radioactive substances as part of treatment.
After testing patients to determine how strong their antibody response is, the treatment involves giving the patient the drugs through a drip and binding to the virus to stop it from being able to infect the body’s cells.
The Government says that it has been able to secure a supply of the treatment for NHS patients across the Home Nations, with enough that eligible patients in hospital can be treated from next week.
Guidance for doctors will be issued shortly so that they can begin prescribing it “as soon as possible”, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
In August, the MHRA said that the clinical trial data it assessed showed that Ronapreve can be used to prevent infection, treat symptoms of serious infection and cut the likelihood of being admitted to hospital.
Trials took place before widespread vaccination and before the emergence of virus variants.
The MHRA said that the drug, developed by pharmaceutical companies Regeneron and Roche, and previously known as REGN-Cov2, is given either by injection or infusion, and acts at the lining of the respiratory system where it binds tightly to the virus and prevents it from gaining access to the cells.
‘Another step in the journey’ to overcome Covid
Paul McManus, the Covid-19 lead at Roche, said: “Over the last 18 months, our goal has been to do everything we can to minimise the impact of the pandemic on those affected and the brilliant people who work tirelessly to treat and care for them.
“Ronapreve is the first dedicated medicine developed for Covid-19 to receive marketing authorisation from the MHRA, representing a significant milestone in how the NHS is able to fight this disease.
“This is just another step in our journey to overcome Covid-19, and we will continue to collaborate with partners to identify and investigate multiple options that may help different groups of patients.
“Together with Regeneron, we’re grateful for the collaboration of the vaccine taskforce and NHS England in helping to bring this important antibody cocktail to treat and prevent acute Covid-19 across the UK.”