HEALTH
UK approves first drug that PREVENTS Covid

A first-of-its-kind drug that stops people from getting Covid has been approved in the UK — but ministers don’t have any on order.

The antibody cocktail, made by AstraZeneca, could be a lifesaver for the 500,000 immunosuppressed Brits who don’t respond well to vaccines.

Evusheld was found to slash the risk of getting symptomatic Covid by around 80 per cent for up to six months in a clinical trial last year.

But the Department of Health said it has not ordered a single dose, despite it having being used on vulnerable people in the US since December.

Approving Evusheld today, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA)said its review found the drug provided ‘long-lasting protection’.

But MailOnline understands health officials are concerned it will not work well on Omicron or the now-dominant subvariant BA.2.

The Therapeutics Taskforce responsible for acquiring Covid drugs is actively engaging in discussions with AstraZeneca.

Blood Cancer UK called on ministers to clarify whether they intend to use the drug, warning that British patents were being left in limbo.

Evusheld is administered via two injections at the same time and uses antibodies — immune proteins — that have been modified in a lab to make them last longer.

While vaccines train the body to muster its own response to Covid, the drug skips this process and makes the antibodies readily available.

In some patients, such as those on chemotherapy, their immune systems are so weak that even after vaccination they struggle to mount a response.

Dr June Raine, chief executive of the MHRA said: ‘After a careful review of the data, I am pleased to confirm we have authorised another medicine to help protect against the effects of Covid.

How does the Evusheld treatment work?

Evusheld, also called AZD7442, contains two types of lab-made antibodies known as tixagevimab and cilgavimab.

These antibodies have been developed from plasma donated by patients who recovered from a Covid infection.

They have been manipulated in a lab to last longer.

They bind to the virus’ spike protein — which it uses to invade cells — to stop an infection, or to prevent the virus from multiplying when it does infect.

Antibodies are created by the immune system in response to the virus, either through vaccination or natural infection, in order to help the body fight if off in the future.

The current vaccines train a person’s body to recognise Covid, but the immune system still needs to produce its own antibodies.

The latest therapy skips that process, making the antibodies readily available.

‘Evusheld is a ‘pre-exposure prophylaxis’ treatment, meaning it is taken to prevent Covid before the risk of acquiring infection. 

‘One dose has been found to provide long-lasting protection against this disease for up to six months.’ 

She insisted that vaccines were still the UK’s ‘first-line defence’ but added: ‘We know that some people may not respond adequately to these vaccines.

‘For these people, Evusheld could provide effective protection against Covid.’

The MHRA’s approval means the NHS can now negotiate a price with the drugmaker and decide who should be eligible.

But MailOnline understands there are concerns about how well Evusheld will work on Omicron or BA.2.

The antibodies used by AstraZeneca were equipped to deal with older versions of the virus.

Gemma Peters, chief executive at Blood Cancer UK, said: ‘The approval of Evusheld will be welcomed by the many thousands of people with blood cancer whose immune systems have not been strong enough to respond well to the vaccines.

‘The high infection rate has meant many of them have felt left behind as the rest of society gets back to normal, and Evusheld offers them hope of getting a similar level of protection against Covid as most of the population have already got from the vaccines.

‘But while today’s approval by the MHRA is welcome news, the Government is yet to set out how it plans to use Evusheld.

‘This means that while it is already available to immunocompromised people in the United States and other countries, immunocompromised people in the UK are now left to wait for the Government to confirm whether it plans to use it and, if so, how many doses it will buy.’

A six-month study last year found the drug provided 77 per cent protection against falling ill with Covid after six months in unvaccinated vulnerable people.

At the time, when the Delta variant was dominant, it represented even higher efficacy than two vaccine doses, which wane significantly in six months.

But there are questions about how well the antibody cocktail will perform against Omicron and its subvariant BA.2, which are more resistant to antibodies.

The Government’s independent advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines, has endorsed the drug’s approval.

Its chair, Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, said: ‘We have carefully reviewed data on the medicine’s safety, quality and effectiveness and are satisfied it meets the expected standards.’

He suggested a stronger dose may be needed to provide high protection against some Covid variants.

‘The recommended dosage is 300mg of Evusheld but a higher dose of 600mg may be more appropriate for some Covid variants,’ he said.

Evusheld, also called AZD7442, contains two types of lab-made antibodies, and is given to patients via an injection into the arm, similar to some vaccines.

It is made by extracting the proteins from patients who have recovered from the virus, and then manipulating them in a lab to make them last longer than natural antibodies.

They bind to the virus’ spike protein — which it uses to invade cells — to stop an infection, or to prevent the virus from multiplying when it does infect.

Antibodies are created by the immune system in response to the virus, either through vaccination or natural infection, in order to help the body fight if off in the future.

The current vaccines train a person’s body to recognise Covid, but the immune system still needs to produce its own antibodies. The latest therapy skips that process, making the antibodies readily available.

Patients undergoing chemotherapy, which reduces the effectiveness of the body’s immune system, or taking immunosuppressive drugs following an organ transplant are among those who don’t always get the full protection from jabs.

Source: Dailymail.co.uk

About the author

Related Post

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *