Evusheld, a COVID-19 preventative treatment – what do we know so far?

In this blog we explain what we know about the preventative COVID-19 treatment, Evusheld, and answer some of the most common questions we have been receiving.

What is Evusheld? 

Evusheld is the combination of two long-lasting antibodies: tixagevimab and cilgavimab. It works by binding to the spike protein on the outside of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19. This in turn prevents the virus from attaching to and entering human cells.

Evusheld is a preventative treatment known as a pre-exposure prophylaxis. This means it is given to patients before they are exposed to COVID-19 in order to prevent them from contracting the virus if they are exposed to it. For most people, the best way to prevent infection is vaccination. Evusheld is intended for use in adults who are unlikely to mount an immune response from COVID-19 vaccination, for example for those who are immunosuppressed.

On 17th March 2022 Evusheld was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). However, this approval does not necessarily mean that the treatment is going to be available to patients (see below).

Will I have access to Evusheld and if so, when? 

We do not yet know if Evusheld will be made available to patients. Approval by the MHRA is only a decision that states whether a drug is safe and effective; it does not mean the treatment has been approved for use on the NHS. The Government has yet to make a decision whether to procure the treatment and make it available on the NHS. 

What is still relatively unknown is Evusheld’s effectiveness against the Omicron variant, which will inform whether or not the Government makes it available to patients. While AstraZeneca (the pharmaceutical company producing Evusheld) announced positive trial data showing the treatment worked, this was before the emergence of the omicron variant. Further research is therefore currently taking place by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) to assess whether Evusheld will be effective against Omicron. The Department of Health and Social Care have said that the Government will not make any decisions on the procurement of Evusheld until the research has been completed. Only when the Government makes a decision can it be rolled out on the NHS. We unfortunately have not been given any timeframes for this. 

Will I be eligible for Evusheld? 

We understand that if Evushled is made available to patients, it will be for the most medically vulnerable in society. However, we do not know how many people this will include and exactly who will be eligible; we do not yet know whether this will include leukaemia patients or any blood cancer patients. These decisions will be made by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Clinical Review Panel (TCRP), which you can read more about here. We are working to request that leukaemia and other blood cancer patients are considered by this panel.

Can I get Evusheld privately? 

To the best of our knowledge, Evusheld is not currently available privately. Any purchase of Evusheld will be made by the UK Government and then made available on the NHS. 

What should I do to protect myself in the meantime?

You should continue to receive all appropriate COVID-19 vaccinations when you are invited for them. In the event that you test positive for COVID-19 you will be assessed for receiving antiviral treatments, providing you are eligible. These antiviral treatments can help some immunocompromised people manage their COVID-19 symptoms and reduce the risk of them becoming seriously ill.

What are Leukaemia Care doing to help make Evusheld available? 

We are working behind the scenes to influence the procurement of COVID-19 therapeutics where possible and to argue for the inclusion of vulnerable leukaemia patients in the eligibility criteria for these treatments. 

We are in conversation with the Department of Health and Social Care, as well as with the newly established TCRP who are responsible for deciding which groups are included in the cohorting. However, the Government will not make any decisions about procuring the treatment until the research of Evusheld’s effectiveness against omicron has concluded. Therefore, we await the results of this research before taking further action.

What questions have been asked in Parliament since Evusheld was approved by the MHRA?

We met with Henry Smith MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on blood cancer, to discuss this issue. As a result he put forward the following questions in parliament on our behalf: 

https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2022-03-17/141958

https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions/detail/2022-03-17/141960 

While the Government is unable to currently answer these questions, due to reasons highlighted above, this does not mean they are not doing any work or planning in this area. 

What can I as a patient do to help? 

As outlined above, the Government must wait for the trial data and research of Evusheld’s effectiveness against omicron to conclude before they are able to make decisions about procuring the treatment and making it available to those who they define as eligible.

In the meantime, if you wish to, you can write to your own MP/MSP/MS or MLA highlighting why this treatment would be important to you as a leukaemia patient. 

Remember, if you contract COVID-19 now, many patients are eligible for antiviral treatments, which are effective and preventing COVID-19 worsening. To find out if you are eligible for these treatments and for more information on how to access antiviral treatments, please read our blog here

We will update this blog when we have more information on Evusheld. If you have any questions please contact advocacy@leukaemiacare.org.uk

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