Coronavirus patients in Britain can now be treated with remdesivir, the Ebola drug which has shown promise in battling the infection.
The Department of Health announced today that adults and teenagers with severe COVID-19 will be allowed to be treated with remdesivir if they fit specific criteria.
This makes the drug, which destroys a part of the virus in order to stop it reproducing, the closest thing doctors have to a cure or treatment for the disease.
The criteria for who will get it have not been laid out by the Government but doctors will be expected to decide on a case-by-case basis who is most likely to benefit.
Early trials of remdesivir, which must be injected by a qualified medic, suggest it could speed up people’s time to recovery by four days, British officials said.
Although the approval of remdesivir has been welcomed by scientists, it has come more than three weeks after the FDA in the US approved it on May 1 and Japan’s ministry of health approved the drug on May 8.
Remdesivir is expected to be available immediately to patients across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave the go-ahead for NHS doctors to use it on people who are seriously ill with COVID-19.
Officials said: ‘Allocation of the drug will be based on expert clinical advice and will take into consideration the situation where it is most likely to provide the greatest benefit.’
The MHRA’s green light means the drug can be used before it has been officially licensed for prescription.
Remdesivir is the first medication to get approval for use outside of a clinical trial in the UK.
It is an anti-viral drug that works by crippling an enzyme called RNA polymerase, which is vital for the virus to reproduce and spread. By damaging this, the drug may be able to stop the coronavirus in its tracks.