COVID-19: Life-saving antibody treatment to be rolled out across UK from next week

A new antibody treatment for COVID-19 will be rolled out to NHS patients across the UK from next week, the government has announced.

Ronapreve, an antibody cocktail developed by Roche and Regeneron, will be initially used to treat COVID-19 hospital patients who have not developed an adequate antibody response.

It will be provided to those without antibodies who are aged 50 and over, or those aged 12 to 49 who are immunocompromised, including people with some types of cancer or autoimmune diseases.

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The drug, which was taken by then-US president Donald Trump when he had COVID-19, has been shown to reduce hospital stays by four days and the risk of death by a fifth.

The government said it has secured enough supply of the new therapeutic treatment for NHS patients across the four nations, with plans to begin treating eligible hospital patients from next week.

Antibody testing will be used to determine whether patients are seronegative, meaning they do not have an adequate existing antibody response and could therefore benefit from the medicine.

Ronapreve was the first antibody treatment to be approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for the prevention and treatment of COVID-19 infections in the UK.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid 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."

The drug, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies called casirivimab and imdevimab, will be administered through a drip and works by binding to the virus’ spike protein, preventing it from being able to infect the body’s cells.

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

The Department of Health said clinicians will soon receive guidance so they can start prescribing the treatment.

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The MHRA said in August that the clinical trial data it assessed showed that Ronapreve can be used to prevent COVID-19, treat serious infections, and lower the chances of hospital admission.

The trials were conducted before widespread COVID-19 vaccination and before the emergence of variants.

Most people develop COVID-19 antibodies from vaccination or exposure to the virus.

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