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NHS in north west treats most COVID vulnerable with new lifesaving medicine

7 February 2022

  • Bay Health and Care Partners

Almost 1,000 vulnerable people at risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19 have now been treated with new lifesaving medicines by the NHS in the North West.

This has contributed to 10,000 people nationally being treated with these medicines since the launch of the scheme in December.

Seven COVID Medicine Delivery Units (CDMUs)  - including one at the RLI and one at FGH - have been set up across the North West to deliver the medicines to treat the highest risk patients – including those who have received organ transplants, some cancer patients and those with Down’s syndrome, if they test positive following a PCR test.

Trials suggest sotrovimab reduces the risk of hospitalisation and death in high risk patients with COVID by 79% and early data suggests it is effective against the Omicron variant according to the manufacturer GSK.

Eryl, aged 63 from, Lancaster, tested positive at the beginning of the year. She has suffered from rheumatoid arthritis for many years. She shielded during the pandemic and was very worried about catching coronavirus.

"I became something of a COVID detective and was aware of the new treatments on offer from some information put out by my GP Practice. I had huge feelings of dread and worry when the two lines came up on my test, and it was over a bank holiday.

"However, once I spoke to the team at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary and went in to have my infusion it was a massive relief - as massive as the fear I had when I tested positive. I had no side effects and I am now going to raise awareness at my local Pilates class so people are aware of the treatments available."

Dr Michael Gregory, Medical Director for Commissioning, NHS England and NHS Improvement North West Region is one of the regional leads for the service:

“While these latest treatments represent another weapon in our arsenal to reduce the risk of patients at highest risk becoming seriously ill and needing hospitalisation from COVID, it is important to remember these will not work in isolation.

“The general public should still ensure that we give each other space - two metres is best - wash our hands more often and cover our face with a face mask or covering, particularly in busy indoor areas.

“Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect you and your loved ones from getting COVID and I would urge everyone to come forward to get your first, second or booster jab.

“Those who may be eligible for this treatment have been contacted by the NHS and if they test positive for coronavirus a further assessment will be carried out to make sure that these medicines are suitable for them”.

Further information

The CDMUs have been set up in the following locations:

  • Merseycare V7 Building; King’s Business Park, Prescott, L34 1PJ (serving the entire Cheshire and Mersey area)
  • Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Cobbett House, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9WL (serving the entire Greater Manchester area)
  • Furness General Hospital, Dalton lane, Barrow, LA14 4LF
  • Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Ashton Road, Lancaster
  • Royal Preston Hospital Vaccination Centre, Sharow Green lane, Fulwood, Preston, PR2 9HT
  • Royal Blackburn Hospital, Haslingten Road, Blackburn, BB2 3HH
  • Blackpool Teaching Hospital, South Shore Primary Care Centre, Lytham Road, Blackpool, FY4 1TJ

Following a clinical assessment by a clinician from a CMDU, one of the following treatments (all of which have shown a reduction in the risk of hospitalisation and severe illness in clinical studies) may be offered to patients:

a. PF-07321332 (Nirmatrelvir) plus ritonavir, (brand name Paxlovid) is an oral antiviral. This is a course of treatment that can either be collected by a friend or family member without COVID or delivered to a patient’s home. The full course of treatment should be taken, and patients should follow the prescribing clinician’s advice. Data suggests this treatment reduces the risk of hospitalisation by up to 88% however it is not suitable for patients with certain health conditions or on some other medications.

Please be aware that Paxlovid has a large number of potential drug interactions (which are set out in the clinical policy) which means it is not going to suitable for many highest risk patients who may instead have one of the alternative treatment options.

b. Sotrovimab is a neutralising monoclonal antibody (nMAB) therapy given through a drip in your arm (infusion). Those prescribed sotrovimab will need to travel to a CMDU to have it administered intravenously. Safe travel guidance will be given by the CMDU.

c. Remdesivir is an antiviral treatment given through infusion like sotrovimab however unlike sotrovimab which only requires one treatment, remdesivir is given over three separate days.

d. Molnupiravir (brand name Lagevrio) is an oral antiviral and like nirmatrelvir plus ritonavir it can be taken at home.