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COVID-19: Antibody therapy approved for UK use

A new coronavirus treatment has been approved for use in the UK

A new coronavirus treatment has been approved for use in the UK.

The therapy uses a pair of laboratory-made antibodies to attack the virus. Regulators have said the drug Ronapreve had been shown to prevent infection and reduce the need for hospital treatment. However, it is very expensive and likely to be reserved for those at greatest risk of becoming severely ill.

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‘This is very good news – this is the second ‘antiviral’ therapeutic to be licensed for COVID in the UK (the first was remdesivir) and the product has been shown to both reduce the need for hospitalisation and death when started early (within 3 days of a positive PCR test) among subjects infected with SARS CoV2 and to prevent illness in close contacts of infected individuals,’ said Proffessor Penny Ward, Independent Pharmaceutical Physician, Visiting Professor in Pharmaceutical Medicine at Kings College, London.

‘Although not included in the data submitted to support this approval, the antibody has also been used in the RECOVERY trial, where it reduced length of hospitalisation and reduced mortality in seronegative patients with COVID admitted to hospital.’

The drug costs between £1,000 to £2,000 for one course of treatment. All monoclonal antibodies, unlike the chemical drugs purchased in pharmacies, are challenging and expensive to make.

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‘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,’ said Proffessor Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine & Epidemiology, Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford.

‘ 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.’