Michael Simmons

UK approves new Covid antibody drug

UK approves new Covid antibody drug
(Photo: Getty)
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In the face of the Omicron strain, the UK regulator has approved a drug that its manufacturers, GlaxoSmithKline, claim reduces hopsitalisations and deaths by 79 per cent. The MHRA announced this morning that it had given the NHS approval to start administering the Xevudy antibody drug to everyone over 12. The drug has been sanctioned for use in patients with ‘mild or moderate’ Covid who are at risk of developing severe illness.

It is the second treatment of its kind to be approved after Roche’s Ronapreve was given the green light in August. Both treatments are ‘monoclonal antibodies’, and work by binding to the spike protein of the virus and blocking its ability to enter human cells. The regulator reviewed a trial including 1,057 volunteers and found that Xevudy cut the risk of hospitalisation and deaths in high-risk adults by 79 per cent. Just six of the participants who received the drug were hospitalised, compared with 30 in the placebo group. The data also showed that the treatment is most effective when administered quickly – so the MHRA has recommended it is given within five days of the onset of infection.

The medication, of which the UK has ordered 100,000 doses, will be available to over-55s and patients who have additional risk factors such as: obesity, heart disease or diabetes. The drug is administered through an intravenous drip which takes half an hour to complete. However, because Xevudy targets the spike protein – on which Omicron has 32 mutations – any risk that the new variant poses to vaccine efficacy may also affect the power of the new drug.

The government is building an arsenal to ensure Covid doesn’t overwhelm the country and kill on the same scale as it did last year. Booster vaccinations, as well as the newly approved antibody drugs and antiviral medications, will go some way towards achieving this.