Sajid Javid says green light for Ronapreve – which was used to treat Donald Trump – is ‘fantastic news’
First published on Fri 20 Aug 2021 09.30 BST
The antibody cocktail used to treat Donald Trump for Covid has been approved by the UK’s medicines regulator, becoming the first treatment in Britain using artificial antibodies to tackle the virus.
The drug, developed by the US biotech company Regeneron, has received the backing of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). Clinical trials showed it helped to prevent Covid infection as well as to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or symptoms in severe cases, when given soon after exposure.
Known as Ronapreve, it is the first artificial antibody drug of its type to be approved in the UK, which was hailed by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, as “fantastic news”. Javid said he hoped it could be available for NHS patients as soon as possible.
The drug is likely to aid those most at risk of having to go to hospital or who are less likely to be protected by current vaccines, as well as potentially tackling outbreaks in care homes and prisons. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination, the MHRA says.
The treatment – produced by Regeneron and the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche – uses artificial monoclonal antibodies that mimic natural antibodies produced by bodies to ward off infections.
Martin Landray, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Oxford University, said: “It combines two antibodies that bind to different places on the coronavirus spike protein, preventing uptake by cells and accelerating clearance of the virus.
“The rationale for combining two different antibodies is that if a viral variant prevented one drug from binding to the spike protein, the other would still be effective – a ‘belt and braces’ approach.”
Landray said the authorisation was an “important step forward” after trials had shown positive results without significant concerns – but that cost could restrict its use to those in the greatest need of protection.
Penny Ward, a visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College, London, said Ronapreve could reduce the length of illness and prevent death provided it were given to patients as quickly as possible after the first symptoms of illness.
Ward said the treatment reduced the risk of hospital admission by about 70%, and potential infection and illness in close contacts by about the same amount, when given rapidly after exposure to the virus. It is likely to be particularly helpful among immune-suppressed people, such as transplant patients and those being treated for cancer, who might not respond well to vaccines.
“With this additional tool at our disposal we stand a greater chance of being able to prevent the toll of Covid on hospital services and save more lives,” Ward said.