New treatment which prevents COVID-19 infection in immunocompromised adults approved in UK

On the 17th March 2022 the UK’s Medicine and Health products Regulation Agency (MHRA) approved a new drug, Evusheld, for the prevention of COVID-19 infection.

Evusheld - New treatment to reduce risk of contracting COVID-19 for immunocompromised adults 

Around half a million people in the UK are immunocompromised, or immunosuppressed. This group includes many of the SRUK community, for whom despite the ending of restrictions the risk of COVID-19 is still very much present.

People living with scleroderma may be immunocompromised as a result of immunosuppressive drugs such as high dose steroids, or other treatments like rituximab, methotrexate, or cyclosporine.  they receive to manage their condition. Research has shown that whilst the COVID-19 vaccine is safe to be given to people taking immunosuppressants, antibody responses to the vaccine may be significantly lower than those seen in healthy individuals. This may mean that these individuals are not as well protected through vaccination.

Evusheld, a new preventative treatment developed by AstraZeneca and authorised for use by the MHRA could be the solution that our community has been waiting for. This news is especially welcome given the current increase in cases of COVID-19 in the UK.

What is Evusheld?

As a preventative treatment Evusheld is designed to be taken prior to exposure to the COVID-19 virus to minimise the chances of infection.  Each dose of Evusheld is made up of two different long-acting monoclonal antibodies; tixagevimab and cligavimab, given as two separate injections at the same time.  Each antibody recognises and binds to distinct parts of the COVID-19 spike protein, neutralising the virus, preventing it from entering cells. The antibodies used have been modified in the laboratory to last longer in the human body, one dose can offer up to six months protection reducing a person’s risk of symptomatic COVID-19 infection by 77%!

There is currently not enough data to verify the effectiveness of Evusheld against the Omicron variants of the virus but the MHRA intend to work with Astra Zeneca to establish this. Data from independent (non-AZ sponsored) studies using animals models of COVID-19 infection are promising.

Who is Evusheld for?

Like other monoclonal antibody treatments linked to COVID-19, Evusheld will be prioritised for those whose immune systems may not have responded as strongly to previous vaccines and booster injections – which includes those with scleroderma who are taking immunosuppressants. Unlike other monoclonal antibody treatments, it is given as an injection as opposed to an infusion. This means that it can be given at a GP surgery or community setting as opposed to a hospital.

It is unclear when Evusheld will be available at your local GP or community pharmacy or how it will be rolled out within the health service – but SRUK will keep you informed on this matter as news becomes available!  

The UK have not yet ordered any doses of this potentially ‘game changing’ drug, however now that it has received MHRA approval, the NHS can negotiate a price with AstraZeneca and hopefully bring this treatment to the clinically vulnerable population in the UK as soon as possible.