The UK’s medicines regulatory body is reviewing a new “antibody cocktail” that could reduce the risk of death from people most at-risk from coronavirus by 70 per cent.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is carrying out advanced tests of bamlanivimab and etesevimab after trials showed “very encouraging” results. If approved they could be rolled out by the NHS to the wider public.
A final-stage study showed just 11 out of 1,035 high-risk coronavirus patients were admitted to hospital after taking the antibody cocktail, compared to 36 people in the placebo group.
All participants in the trial were at high risk of severe illness, either because they were either over-65 or suffering from underlying health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and immune system disorders.
Scientists working on the trial said there was “strong evidence” the treatments reduced viral load and accelerated a return to health.
Dr Daniel Skovronsky, chief scientific officer for Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company behind the trial, said: “These exciting results add valuable clinical evidence about the role neutralising antibodies can play in fighting this pandemic.”
“The death toll from Covid-19 continues to rise around the world and hospitalisations have reached record highs,” he added.
Professor Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, added: “These results are very encouraging. They are the first anti-viral drugs that demonstrably work in the first phase of the disease just after the virus has infected someone but before it has had time to cause a lot of damage.”
The drugs join a long list of experimental medicines being trialled in the UK to treat coronavirus.
Researchers at Oxford University are currently carrying out trials on ivermectin, a cheap “wonder drug” credited with dramatically reducing Covid-19 deaths.
Ivermectin has traditionally been used on livestock and to treat people with parasitic infestations, but has been credited with reducing Covid deaths in the developing world.
The UK earlier this month launched large-scale trials of a separate drug that could cut the risk of Covid patients developing severe illness by as much as 80 per cent.
The phase three trials will see Synairgen’s inhaled formulation of a protein called interferon beta administered to more than 600 Covid patients who require supplemental oxygen.
It is thought that the naturally-occurring protein, which is widely used in the treatment of multiple sclerosis , will stimulate the immune system and prime cells to fight off coronavirus.