More than 100 doctors have written to the government demanding that the NHS fund a Covid drug that protects vulnerable patients who do not respond to the vaccines, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
They, along with 19 charities, have written a letter to Health Minister Steve Barclay stating that the medication is a matter of life or death for Britons with weakened immune systems, such as those with blood cancers or an organ transplant.
The move comes just days after the NHS spending watchdog said it will begin evaluating the cost-effectiveness of the £800-per-dose treatment, called Evusheld.
Developed by Covid jab maker AstraZeneca, it was approved by drug regulatory authorities in March after a study found it reduced the risk of Covid symptoms by 88 percent.
The drug stops the binding of Covid cells to healthy cells, causing it to infect the body. Even if these vulnerable, so-called immunocompromised patients become infected, they are up to 92 percent less likely to be hospitalized and die if they’ve had Evusheld.
Based on these results, 28 countries, including France, America and Israel, have taken millions of doses since January, but the British government has so far refused to cover the costs.
NHS spending watchdog to evaluate cost-effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s new Covid drug, Evusheld (pictured)
Since Evusheld was declared safe by regulators four months ago, as many as 500 immunocompromised Britons have died, according to analysis by the charity Blood Cancer UK shared exclusively with The Mail on Sunday.
Doctors and charities are now calling on the government to roll out Evusheld this fall to those who qualify, to protect them from the Covid wave expected in the winter.
dr. Lennard Lee, a cancer expert at the University of Oxford and lead author of the statement, said the move would benefit both the NHS and those receiving the drug.
“Evusheld is likely to reduce the demand for hospitals, allowing the NHS to recover while also giving immunocompromised people the freedom that has been taken from them for two years.”
Charities say many immunocompromised Britons – believed to be 500,000 – are still shielding.
“A lot of people are anxious and feel like they’ve been forgotten by the government,” says Gemma Peters of Blood Cancer UK.
“Evusheld has the potential to reduce anxiety, so we are urging the government to buy and roll out the drug quickly.”
The Mail on Sunday was the first to reveal that health chiefs had not bought Evusheld a month after the initial approval.
At the time, the Ministry of Health said further research was needed to assess its effectiveness against new Covid variants.
But in their statement, the doctors say there is now definitive evidence that Evusheld protects the vulnerable against the virus.
On Friday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the watchdog of the NHS, announced a two-week consultation on the costs.
A number of MPs have also called on health chiefs to buy Evusheld. Tory MP Bob Blackman said protecting the lives of immunocompromised people should be considered a critical part of the plan to live with Covid.
“Evusheld could provide a solution and it is important that the voice of patients and clinicians is heard,” he added.
One Briton requesting access to Evusheld is Scott Brigden, 47, from Hedon, East Yorkshire, who was diagnosed with blood cancer in March 2021. it has a serious impact on his immune system.
Scott and his wife Nikola, 52, have not seen any friends or relatives since.
“The only time I’ve been out of the house is to walk the dog,” Scott says. “Our daughter just started college and now she has to stay away most of the time.”
Scott believes that Evusheld would allow him to lead a more normal life.
“It’s hard enough to be diagnosed with blood cancer and undergo intensive treatment. Knowing that I’m being refused treatment that could give me my life back makes the situation even worse.’