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Covid patients in the NHS will be able to get treatment in the coming months with remdesivir, one of the drugs given to Donald Trump, after the European commission negotiated for enough doses for 500,000 patients in 36 countries including the UK.
There is a global shortage of remdesivir because the US bought up all stocks from the US-based manufacturer Gilead from June to October. Demand for the drug is ramping up following Trump’s treatment for Covid.
The commission signed a joint procurement deal with Gilead on Thursday on behalf of the bloc. The UK joined in, having opted out of earlier negotiations on PPE and ventilators in favour of making its own deals.
“Today we secure access to remdesivir for the treatment of up to 500,000 patients in need. We are leaving no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure that safe and efficient therapeutics are available against Covid-19,” said Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner forhealth and food safety.
“Through our EU joint procurements, we are empowering countries across Europe to join forces and get access to vital equipment and medicines. We are always stronger together, and this is European solidarity in action against Covid-19.”
The joint procurement runs until March, paid for through the common budget, to which the UK has contributed. The UK government is also talking to Gilead and hopes that supplies of remdesivir will have stabilised by next year, so that it can buy direct from the manufacturer as it would under normal circumstances.
Remdesivir is an antiviral drug shown to shorten the length of stay for hospitalised patients, but the jury is still out on whether it saves lives. A trial run by the World Health Organization is investigating exactly that, by recruiting 3,000 patients to take it and comparing their outcomes against those of an equal number who have not. Its results are expected in the next few weeks.
The one drug that does save lives is dexamethasone, a widely available and extremely cheap steroid. Oxford University’s Recovery trial showed dexamethasone worked in seriously ill patients needing oxygen. Trump was given it in his treatment.
The third drug Trump took was REGN-COV2, an experimental antibody cocktail made by Regeneron, which has just been included in the Recovery trial. The company has supplied enough to treat 2,000 patients to find out how well it works and at what stage of illness.
Trump claimed the experimental drug had cured him. Prof Martin Landray, of Oxford University, one of the leaders of the Recovery trial, said it was impossible to draw any conclusions from one person’s experience. “However one man fares, one can’t say whether he did well or badly because of the drug, in spite of the drug, or just that the drug had no effect,” he said.
Landray thinks the drug has real possibilities. “In the few hundred patients that they studied so far, it does reduce the viral load – the amount of virus in the patient,” he said.
In the laboratory, it binds to the virus and stops it getting into cells and causing damage. “So it’s a drug that’s clearly bad for the virus. The question is, is it good for the patient and which patients and how good?” Landray said.
He pointed out that Covid-19 is a complex disease. In the early stages there is quite a lot of virus about, but later it is inflammation and its consequences that seem to be the reason why people do badly.
“You can’t just say the whole of Covid and coronavirus is one thing – it’s different at different stages. So a drug that’s very active against the virus may or may not have more or less value in different stages of disease and different types of patients,” Landray said. That was why clinical trials were essential.
Some US hospital doctors say they are already getting patients asking for the drug, which Trump said would be provided free to Americans.
The European commission said it had not yet embarked on any negotiations with the manufacturer, Regeneron, because the European Medicines Agency had not yet begun to review it even for emergency authorisation.
The company has applied in the wake of Trump’s endorsement for emergency authorisation from the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration. Once the drug has regulatory approval, there is likely to be the same scramble that there has been over remdesivir.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: NHS to provide remdesivir to Covid patients after joint EU deal | World news