Covid drug given to Donald Trump approved for use in UK

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The UK’s medicines regulator has approved the use of a drug given to former US president Donald Trump when he had coronavirus last year.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said approval of the first treatment designed specifically for Covid-19 in the UK is “fantastic news” and he hopes it can be rolled out for patients on the NHS “as soon as possible”.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said 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.

It is the first monoclonal antibody combination product approved for use in the prevention and treatment of acute infection from the virus in the UK.

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made proteins that act like natural human antibodies in the immune system.

The drug, developed by pharmaceutical firms 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, the MHRA said.

Mr Javid said: “The UK is considered a world leader in identifying and rolling out life-saving treatments for Covid-19, once they have been proven safe and effective in our government-backed clinical trials.

“This is fantastic news from the independent medicines regulator and means the UK has approved its first therapeutic designed specifically for Covid-19.

“This treatment will be a significant addition to our armoury to tackle Covid-19 – in addition to our world-renowned vaccination programme and life-saving therapeutics dexamethasone and tocilizumab.

“We are now working at pace with the NHS and expert clinicians to ensure this treatment can be rolled out to NHS patients as soon as possible.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

MHRA interim chief quality and access officer Dr Samantha Atkinson said: “We are pleased to announce the approval of another therapeutic treatment that can be used to help save lives and protect against Covid-19.

“Ronapreve is the first of its kind for the treatment of Covid-19 and, after a meticulous assessment of the data by our expert scientists and clinicians, we are satisfied that this treatment is safe and effective.

“With no compromises on quality, safety and efficacy, the public can trust that the MHRA have conducted a robust and thorough assessment of all the available data.”

The Department of Health said it will set out further details of how the treatment will be deployed to patients “in due course”.

Professor Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, said the approval is “an important step forward” and that it could play “an important role” in helping patients at higher risk from the virus, noting that it had been administered to Mr Trump last year.

He said: “The challenge going forward will be in determining which patients should be prioritised for this treatment. Covid is not a rare disease and many people get better of their own accord after a few days of a nasty flu-like illness.

“It would be hard to justify giving what are likely to be limited supplies of a relatively expensive treatment to huge numbers of people who are likely to get better on their own.

“On the other hand, it may play an important role in patients who are at higher risk of developing severe infection and who are more likely to end up in hospital.”

Professor Penny Ward, independent pharmaceutical physician and visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at Kings College, London, said it is a “good news day” and suggested how the drug might be deployed.

“I think it is most likely to be used to prevent hospitalisation among people becoming sick with Covid who are at higher risk of needing hospital care/dying from disease,” she said.

She added that it might also be used to prevent Covid infections in people who are in contact with a confirmed case and who might have reduced response to vaccination, such as those being treated for cancer or who have had a transplant.

She suggested it could also be used to “curtail outbreaks” in places like care homes, hospitals, prisons and critical workplaces.

Dr Matthew Buckland, chairman of charity Immunodeficiency UK’s medical advisory panel, said giving immune deficient patients Ronapreve as a preventative treatment would “offer near parity with the general population, for a group of over 500,000 vulnerable people who have been forgotten throughout the vaccine rollout”.

He said: “We urge the Government to make clear its plans to support the rollout of monoclonal antibody treatments, and to expedite the approval of these drugs for prophylaxis as well as treatment, which could save lives and transform the quality of life of millions of people.”

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