UK approves use of Regeneron Covid-19 antibody cocktail

Health secretary says drug will be used by NHS as soon as possible

The UK drug regulator has approved an antibody cocktail developed by Regeneron and Roche to prevent and treat Covid-19.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said clinical trial data shows the drug Ronapreve could help prevent infection, resolve symptoms of severe Covid-19 and reduce the chances of admission to hospital.

“This treatment will be a significant addition to our armoury to tackle Covid-19,” British Health Minister Sajid Javid said in a statement.

It comes as the nation battles rising hospital admissions due to the more infectious Delta variant.

Hospital admissions for Covid-19 exceeded 6,100 this week, a five-month high. Two thirds of admitted patients had not been vaccinated, data released this month showed.

Ronapreve, known as REGEN-COV in the US, can be taken via injection or infusion. It binds tightly to the coronavirus at the lining of the respiratory system and prevents it from gaining access to cells of the respiratory system, the MHRA said.

It belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight off infections. The drug is not intended to be used as a substitute for vaccination, the MHRA added.

Mr Javid said the government would start to roll out the therapy across the NHS as soon as possible.

This is the third therapy in the UK's arsenal, added to generic steroid dexamethasone and arthritis drug tocilizumab, sold by Roche as Actemra and RoActemra.

Earlier this week, Roche warned of a global shortage of its arthritis drug which will last a few more weeks.

Ronapreve/REGEN-COV received emergency approval to treat Covid-19 in more than 20 countries, including the US, which has also authorised a similar treatment by Eli Lilly for patients who have not been admitted to hospital. It has been a big earner for Regeneron, which logged US sales of $2.59 billion in the second quarter.

In June, the EU bought about 55,000 doses of the treatment while the region's drug watchdog reviews it for approval.

Updated: August 20th 2021, 7:27 PM