‘Frustrated’ doctors reveal Covid patients STILL not being given Regeneron’s antibody cocktail


Doctors today revealed they are still struggling to get access to a lifesaving Covid drug that has proven to be highly effective on the most vulnerable patients.

The medicine, known as Ronapreve, works by mounting an immune response against the virus in people whose bodies are too weak to do it on their own.

A major British trial found the antibody therapy slashed the risk of death or hospitalisation in people with severe health conditions by 70 per cent. 

The UK’s drugs watchdog finally approved on August 20, providing a fresh sense of hope for sick patients for whom even vaccines don’t work well. 

US patients had been receiving Ronapreve in the US since November, saving countless lives. France, Germany and Canada are also using the drug. 

But NHS doctors expressed their ‘frustration’ at not being able to get hold of Ronapreve and lagging behind other parts of the world. 

Dr Matthew Buckland, an immunologist at Barts Health NHS Trust in London, told MailOnline: ‘I think it is incredibly disappointing and frustrating for us and our patients (that the drug still is not available).’

He questioned why other drugs that were approved on weaker evidence, such as the antiviral Remdesivir, had been rolled out quicker in the UK.

Dr Buckland said he had hoped the drug would have been rolled out by the end of last month at the latest. 

Pharmacologist Dr Dipender Gill, from Imperial College London, said it was ‘frustrating’ that patients were dying every day because of the delay. 

 The Ronapreve drug uses two drugs — casirivimab and Imdevimab — which are made by copying Covid-fighting antibodies from patients who have recovered from the virus. Doctors are frustrated that they cannot get hold of the medicine in the UK 

In another blow, Dr Gill said it could still take ‘several more weeks’ before doctors could finally get their hands on it because of the time needed to finalise guidance on which UK patients should receive the treatment.

There are also fears there will be further delays while the NHS negotiates a supply deal with Swiss company Roche, which is marketing the product outside the US.  

Immunocompromised man, 35, still struggling to beat Covid after eight weeks ‘would benefit’ 

A 35-year-old immunocompromised man — who has not been named — caught Covid in June and has been in and out of hospital ever since.

Two weeks ago he was transferred to Guys’ and St Thomas’ hospital in London when his condition deteriorated. 

The man, who suffers from a condition which means he is deficient in critical immune cells, has now been put on a ventilator to help him breathe. 

Friends told MailOnline doctors had gone to the ‘highest levels’ of the NHS to secure Ronapreve but have hit a brick wall. 

They said: ‘They have gone to the highest level for the drug, but they keep hitting a brick wall. If they could get it they would administer the drug straight away.’

They added: ‘Covid is doing irreparable damage to his lungs.

‘We understand the ecmo machine (to help him breathe) can prolong life because his lungs are not required to work, but the quicker he can move Covid out of his body the better.’ 

‘The big thing for me is why say that you have  approved a drug and will roll it out? I don’t want politicians to say we will roll this out and then not do it.’

The man has the genetic condition X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) which means his body does not produce enough white blood cells. 

Charity Immunodeficiency UK, which supports people with immunodeficiencies, said many patients with the condition ‘desperately need’ the drug.

Friends say they are now looking to secure the treatment privately from the US, and then courier it to the UK. 

Britain’s medical regulator approved the drug on August 20 for use in UK patients, almost nine months behind the US.

At the time Health Secretary Sajid Javid said he would roll out the treatment ‘as soon as possible’. 

Ronapreve uses two different man-made antibodies — casirivimab and imdevimab — to fight off Covid infections.

The treatments were made by extracting the proteins from patients who had recovered from the virus, and then manipulating them in a laboratory.

Antibodies are made by the immune system in response to the virus, either through vaccination or natural infection, in order to help the body fight if off in the future.

They bind to the virus’ spike protein — which it uses to invade cells — to stop an infection from continuing to run rampant in the body.

In Ronapreve, they are administered to patients either by injection or intravenously.

Britain’s medical regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), has recommended for it to be given ‘as soon as possible’ after a positive Covid test in at risk patients.

Experts said it was most effective when given three days after a positive test. 

Dr Gill told MailOnline: ‘It is always in the nature of doctors and healthcare professionals to give the best possible care.

‘But now it is approved on the NHS I think everybody is motivated to try and have it rolled out as quickly as possible and to ensure that it is delivered fairly.

‘And so while the layers (to getting it to patients) are frustrating, there are logistical and practical issues that need to be resolved.’

Once a medicine is approved for use in UK patients by the MHRA it then needs to receive clinical guidelines from the NHS watchdog National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) on how it should be used.   

Doctors had hoped that the NICE guidance would be published alongside the MHRA approval.

It is not clear why this did not happen. 

The drug — which costs £2,000 per patient — is likely to only be available to the most serious Covid cases because of its hefty price tag.

It could take weeks before the deal is finalised and doses are shipped to the UK, which might be too long for some desperately ill patients.

A 35-year-old immunocompromised man — who has not been named — caught Covid in June and has been in and out of hospital ever since.

Two weeks ago he was transferred to Guys’ and St Thomas’ hospital in London when his condition deteriorated. 

The man, who suffers from a condition which means he is deficient in key immune cells, has now been put on a ventilator to help him breathe. 

Friends told MailOnline doctors had gone to the ‘highest levels’ of the NHS to secure Ronapreve but have hit a brick wall. 

They said: ‘They have gone to the highest level for the drug, but they keep hitting a brick wall. If they could get it they would administer the drug straight away.’

They added: ‘Covid is doing irreparable damage to his lungs.

‘We understand the ecmo machine (to help him breathe) can prolong life because his lungs are not required to work, but the quicker he can move Covid out of his body the better.’ 

‘The big thing for me is why say that you have  approved a drug and will roll it out? I don’t want politicians to say we will roll this out and then not do it.’

The man has the genetic condition X-linked agammaglobulinemia (XLA) which means his body does not produce enough white blood cells. 

Charity Immunodeficiency UK, which supports people with immunodeficiencies, said many patients with the condition ‘desperately need’ the drug.

Insiders told MailOnline that the NHS has only approached Ronapreve suppliers to secure doses for individual patients. 

It is yet to launch investigations to secure a supply deal for the drug on the NHS.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: ‘We are working at pace with the NHS and expert clinicians to ensure this treatment can be rolled out to patients as soon as possible.

‘This treatment will be a significant addition to our armoury for tackling Covid, building on the huge wall of protection we’ve built through our vaccination programme and the life-saving therapeutics at our disposal, including dexamethasone and tocilizumab.’ 

NHS England refused to comment. 

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