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Coronavirus NI: New treatments for high risk patients to be rolled out

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Stock image of Covid hospital ward

Stock image of Covid hospital ward

Stock image of Covid hospital ward

A new range of treatments for those Covid-19 patients who are at most risk of severe illness have been announced by the Health Minister.

The treatments – which were previously limited to hospitalised patients – have now been authorised to be used in those who require treatment outside of a hospital setting.

Robin Swann said the use of the new drug therapies for high risk patients will “reduce the number of people who need to be admitted to hospital, thus helping to ease pressures on the health service over the challenging winter months”.

Coronavirus Data Graphs

The Department of Health said the two treatments which will be offered include neutralising monoclonal antibodies (nMAB) administered as a single intravenous infusion delivered as an outpatient.

Alongside this will be the oral antiviral medicine, currently molnupiravir (Lagevrio), which is usually taken in capsule form at home.

The UK Government has recently signed two new contracts to secure millions of anti-viral treatments for the virus.

The two new contracts are for 1.75m additional courses of molnupiravir and 2.5m additional courses of Paxlovid which is expected to be authorised early next year.

The new nMAB treatments are for people aged 12 and over and oral antivirals for people aged 18 and over, who have tested positive for Covid-19 and are at highest risk of getting seriously ill.

“Access to these treatments is in addition to Covid-19 vaccines, which remain the most important intervention for protecting people from infection,” Mr Swann added.

“Having additional measures is important now more than ever with the discovery of new variants of concern, including Omicron.

“These type of treatments are already used by the health service to treat patients who are hospitalised with severe Covid-19, and have been shown to improve survival and recovery time.

“The roll-out of these treatments to patients at high risk in the community is a significant milestone in our battle against Covid-19 and will provide an additional layer of support for the most vulnerable in society.’’

He added: “Patients in Northern Ireland will benefit from these national procurement contracts.

“Our Covid-19 booster programme continues at unparalleled pace and it’s vital we further bolster our response to the virus by ensuring access to the world’s best treatments.”

Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Michael McBride said: “These new treatments are designed to be used in the earliest stages of infection for high risk patients as soon as possible after a positive PCR test result has been received.

“Some will be delivered intravenously at hospital sites and others will be taken at home.

“They include patients with certain immune conditions, or who have recently received treatment for cancer or are an organ transplant recipient.

“It’s vital that we do everything we can to protect the most vulnerable patients and prevent them, as far as possible, from becoming very seriously ill with Covid-19.”


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