Health chiefs are poised to roll out a life-saving Covid drug designed to protect vulnerable patients who don’t respond to the vaccine, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
Government experts have been assessing the medication and Ministers are now considering advice from doctors on ‘the most appropriate option for the NHS’.
Evusheld, developed by AstraZeneca, was approved by drug regulators in March after a study showed it reduced the chances of Covid infections by 80 per cent.
The drug, which works by attaching itself to and inhibiting the Covid virus’s ability to bind with healthy cells and infect the body, can also reduce hospitalisations and deaths by 50 per cent.
Based on these impressive results, 28 countries, including France, America and Israel, have snapped up millions of doses since January – but up to now, the Government has refused to cover the £800-a-dose cost.
Health chiefs are poised to roll out a life-saving Covid drug designed to protect vulnerable patients who don’t respond to the vaccine. The move will come too late for some, including the devastated family of cancer patient Michael Warren, who died of Covid in June – a few months after walking daughter Chelsea (pictured with him) down the aisle
Charities and patient groups, backed by this newspaper, have been calling for the rollout of Evusheld – and in the clearest indication that there is hope is sight a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We have been assessing Evusheld, and asking clinicians to advise on the most appropriate option for the NHS in line with all available data.
‘Ministers are considering the advice which has been presented to them.’
Evusheld is given via an intravenous infusion once every six months, and could provide a lifeline for the estimated 500,000 Britons who are still at risk from the virus, despite having been jabbed – in some cases, up to five times.
These are primarily blood cancer and transplant patients who take medications that suppress the immune system. These same medications render the Covid vaccine less effective.
Evusheld, developed by AstraZeneca, was approved by drug regulators in March after a study showed it reduced the chances of Covid infections by 80 per cent
Since January, roughly five per cent of people dying of Covid have blood cancer – of which leukaemia is one type – according to the charity Blood Cancer UK. It is a striking figure, because blood cancer patients account for less than 0.004 per cent of the population.
Professor Hugh Montgomery, an intensive care expert at University College London, said: ‘I’ve got friends who are immunocompromised who are still locked in the house and terrified to go out. This drug could help set them free.’
Despite this, the move will come too late for some – including the devastated family of cancer patient Michael Warren, who died of Covid in June.
It’s a fact
Covid infections have jumped by 32 per cent in a week, with 2.3 million cases currently recorded across the UK.
Diagnosed with leukaemia in March last year, the 59-year-old from Birmingham ‘did everything he could’ to avoid the virus after doctors warned him that the combination of the cancer and the chemotherapy needed to treat it would leave him extremely vulnerable.
He’d already had two Covid jabs by that time, and in October received a third dose, but was advised to keep shielding.
Jayne, his partner of 30 years, and their children Chelsea, 28, and Georgia, 24, rallied to his side, staying with him at home, wearing masks when they went out and taking daily Covid tests. But none of it was enough.
In February, just weeks after finishing a course of chemo, he tested positive. For three months the 59-year-old battled the virus as he was admitted to hospital four times – yet his already ravaged immune system could not cope.
Michael, once an amateur boxer, died at the beginning of June. A final PCR test showed he was still Covid positive.
Still reeling, his daughter Chelsea, who is expecting her first child with husband Andrew, said: ‘Dad was meant to be here – he was so excited to be a grandad.
‘The cancer was a shock but we thought he’d turned a corner. Last year he walked me down the aisle at my wedding. Everyone tested beforehand to keep him safe, and it made me so happy to have him there. The worst part is he caught Covid just weeks after he finally finished his chemo.
‘He was planning to go back to work and go on holiday with Mum. It doesn’t seem fair.’
She added: ‘Knowing this drug was out there, but Dad couldn’t access it, makes me so bitter.’