23 Dec 2021

The new Covid-19 drug is now being given as a transfusion to transplant recipients, cancer patients and other high-risk groups to help prevent people falling seriously ill - with initial tests suggesting it works against the Omicron variant.

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody given as a transfusion to transplant recipients, cancer patients and other high-risk groups.

If given quickly after symptoms develop it should help prevent people from falling seriously ill with the disease. Initial tests suggest it should still work against the Omicron variant.

The first patient to receive the treatment in Cheshire and Merseyside was Phil McConnell, age 73 from Haydock he said, “Because of cancer my immune system isn’t what it should be, so I am very pleased to be getting this treatment which will reduce my risk of needing to go to hospital and stop me worrying so much.”

"This treatment is our latest important weapon in the battle against the virus," said Dr Ted Adams, the programme's Clinical Lead for Cheshire and Merseyside.  “If you test positive, have symptoms and are at high risk then the NHS will contact you, and, if eligible, you will be able to get access to this new treatment."

 

Monoclonal antibodies

To date most Covid treatments have focused on patients already in hospital with the disease - such as the steroid dexamethasone and the arthritis drug Tocilizumab.

Now a second generation of Covid drugs like Sotrovimab are starting to come on stream - aimed at vulnerable patients at an earlier stage of infection.

Initial clinical trials suggest Sotrovimab, developed by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Vir Biotechnology, is thought to reduce the risk of hospitalisation in high risk patients by 79%.

The drug works by binding to the spike protein on the outside of the virus, preventing it from entering human cells, so that it cannot replicate in the body.

GSK has said early laboratory tests suggest it should still work against the Omicron variant. More checks are still needed, but researchers say the drug targets a part of the spike protein of the virus that has not undergone major changes. 

Around 1.3 million of the highest risk NHS patients are eligible to receive Sotrovimab, along with other new Covid treatments as they become available.

The drug is most effective if taken in the first five days after infection and will be given in clinics or to outpatients in hospital.  Eligible high risk patients should have received a letter from the NHS on the programme and what to do.  More information on the programme in Cheshire and Merseyside can be found on our website here.