New COVID-19 treatment showing early success in Sydney hospitals
Doctors are reporting early successes with sotrovimab on patients identified as at increased risk of developing severe illness.
A new treatment is showing promising results in preventing vulnerable Sydneysiders infected with COVID-19 from needing to be hospitalised or dying.
As the anticipated surge of coronavirus patients hits our hospitals, doctors are reporting early successes with sotrovimab on patients identified as at increased risk of developing severe illness.
The monoclonal antibody, which is given by intravenous infusion, has been offered to patients who meet criteria at major hospitals across Greater Sydney over the past three weeks.
"This is the first drug for which there is really good evidence that it can actually keep people out of hospital in the first place," Dr David Andresen, a specialist in infectious diseases at St Vincent's Hospital, said.
"We started using it really as quickly as we can because obviously the hospital system is under quite a lot of stress at the moment so anything we can do to keep patients out of hospital and prevent them needing admission is obviously a good thing."
Sotrovimab works by using artificial monoclonal antibodies – based on natural ones human bodies make – to bind to the spike protein on the virus, stop it from entering cells and helping fight off already infected cells.
Clinical trials found those who had a single dose showed a 79 per cent reduction in the risk of hospitalisation or death.
Among criteria for NSW patients is that it's given within five days of symptoms appearing, they don't require oxygen supplementation and they have risk factors such as being older or having diabetes, kidney disease, heart failure or obesity.
Because patients who receive the drug are COVID-positive, there are strict rules around infection control when they are taken into hospital for the half hour transfusion.
Sotrovimab, which is the first monoclonal antibody treatment approved for COVID-19 in Australia, has been used for longer overseas but new data will be collected on its use during our current outbreak.
"The data from the overseas trials were really very promising, suggesting that you can reduce a patients risk of needing to go to hospital by about three-quarters," Dr Andresen said.
The Australian Government ordered 7700 doses for its National Medicines Stockpiles, with shipments arriving last month.
It's not cheap at more than US$2,000 a dose – but is provided free to patients under Australia's public health system.
Doctors expect it to be a recommended option for eight to 15 per cent of adults with COVID-19.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) gave provisional approval to sotrovimab, which is made by pharmaceutical company GSK.
"No patient who was treated with sotrovimab ended up on a ventilator or in ICU, compared to a placebo, where those outcomes were seen," Dr Krystal Evans from GSK told 9News.
Today Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would quadruple its supplies, ordering another 22,300 doses.