The NHS has announced that some disabled people and some people with certain medical conditions will be automatically offered antibody or antiviral medications as soon as they test positive for Covid-19. These antivirals will be reserved for people at highest risk of getting seriously ill with Covid-19.
The two treatments being offered by the NHS are called Sotrovimab and Molnupiravir. These two medications operate in different ways, though both have the same intended purpose. Sotrovimab is a biological medicine. It is also known as a neutralising monoclonal antibody (nMAb). This means it uses specific antibodies (the part of your immune system that attacks foreign cells) to neutralise certain parts of the Covid-19 virus. This means it is very effective against the cells it is designed to work against, but less effective against others. Molnupiravir, in contrast, is an antiviral medicine.
This means that it attacks all viruses that enter the body. BuDS has written an article about Molnupiravir before, which can be found here.
The medications are designed to reduce your risk of getting seriously ill once you have caught Covid-19. There is no guarantee that you will not be seriously ill or hospitalised, but the odds should be lower than if you weren’t treated. It is also important to note that not all treatments will work for everyone. Some people will have a very good response to them, whereas others will have a very limited response – this is entirely dependent on your immune system, and not the medications themselves. Ask your GP about this if you have any concerns about how effective the medications will be should you be given them.
The groups who will automatically get the medications are people who have:
- Down’s syndrome
- A rare condition affecting the brain or nerves (including multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Huntington’s disease or myasthenia gravis)
- Sickle cell disease
- Certain types of cancer
- HIV or AIDS
- A severe liver condition (such as cirrhosis)
- Chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 or 5
- Had an organ transplant
- Certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease)
- A condition or treatment that makes you more likely to get infections
- Had certain types of chemotherapy in the last 12 months
- Had radiotherapy in the last 6 months
These treatments are designated for people aged over 12, and are prescribed at the recommendation of a doctor or specialist. They are also accessible through a trial being run by the University of Oxford, who use similar criteria to those stated above. If you want to find out more about this, click here.
If you are eligible for these medications and test positive, you should be contacted by the NHS within 24 hours of testing positive using a PCR test. This will usually be by either email, phone, or text, depending on the primary method of communication you selected when reporting the test result. It is important to note that just because you are eligible, it does not mean that you will definitely be given the treatment if the NHS contact you, but it is likely that you will be.
If you think you are in this group but aren’t automatically offered the medications on testing positive (or the NHS do not offer you them when contacting you), you can ask your GP to check the situation or call 111 to discuss it. The antibody and antiviral medications to be offered were very effective against Delta but it is not yet fully known how effective they are against Omicron. More data will become available on this as people begin taking them. BuDS will update you on this when firm conclusions are available.
Remember that these medications, even if you are offered them, do not make it ‘safe’ or ‘safer’ to catch Covid-19. Even with treatment, Covid-19 will still do you significant harm, regardless of what steps you take to mitigate this. The most important thing is to not catch Covid-19, regardless of your risk level, as this is the only thing that will keep you safe. BuDS produces weekly risk assessment posts which advise you both of the risk on Bucks, and how to keep yourself safe, which can be read here.
More information can be found here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/treatments-for-coronavirus/