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DHSC halts purchases of Covid prevention drug Evusheld amid efficacy concerns

DHSC halts purchases of Covid prevention drug Evusheld amid efficacy concerns

The Government is halting purchases of the Evusheld Covid prevention drug while awaiting further evidence that it is effective against the Omicron variant.

The prophylactic monoclonal antibody treatment for Covid – that could be administered by GPs – was approved by the UK medicines regulator in March this year.

Evusheld, a combination of tixagevimab/cilgavimab developed by AstraZeneca, is given as two intramuscular injections before exposure to Covid-19 to people who have had a poor immune response to vaccination.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said in clinical trials the treatment was found to reduce the risk of developing symptomatic Covid-19 by 77%, with protection from the virus continuing for at least six months.

However, these trials were conducted before the emergence of the Omicron variant and the Department of Health and Social Care said it has now received expert clinical advice which shows evidence of efficacy is ‘insufficient’.

A DHSC spokesperson said: ‘Following a robust review of the available data, our clinical experts advise there is currently insufficient data on the duration of protection offered by Evusheld in relation to the Omicron variant and the government will not be procuring any doses at this time.

‘We are determined to support the most vulnerable as we live with Covid and immunocompromised patients are a priority for other treatments, access to free tests and vaccination.

‘We continue to explore the market for promising treatments that could prevent infection, to add to the antibody and antiviral treatments that are already offered on the NHS. We remain in close touch with all relevant parties.’

The decision was based on independent clinical advice by Rapid C-19, a multi-agency group, and a UK National Expert Policy Working Group, the DHSC said.

Health secretary Steve Barclay has asked officials to meet again with AstraZeneca in the coming days to establish whether any real-world data has emerged in recent weeks from other countries, so it can considered by the expert panel.

It has also been agreed that Evusheld will be submitted to NICE for a review which is expected to conclude in April next year.


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