By Maggie Fick
LONDON, Nov 16 (Reuters) – Britain’s agency which determines whether drugs should be used in the National Health Service (NHS), has recommended stopping the use of five COVID-19 treatments, including the antiviral pill of Merck & Co for high-risk patients, citing profitability concerns.
The review, conducted by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and published on Wednesday, is the first involving COVID-19 treatments as the pandemic enters a new phase.
Many governments are or will soon be grappling with similar decisions. With a significant drop in COVID-related deaths and cases, many countries are struggling to transition from the public health emergency phase.
The recommendations are a draft, NICE said, and until the final guidelines are released, access to COVID-19 medicines will continue as is. He did not say when the final guidelines would be released.
NICE has acknowledged that there is evidence that Merck’s molnupiravir and Gilead Sciences Inc’s hospital-administered antiviral remdesivir are effective in treating COVID-19.
But he said he does not recommend their use at current prices because cost-effectiveness estimates are above what he considers an acceptable use of national health system resources.
He also recommended against three other COVID treatments, including sotrovimab from GSK and its partner Vir Biotechnology, an antibody therapy that the World Health Organization advised against in September.
The other two are combination antibody treatments, Evusheld from AstraZeneca and Ronapreve from Roche.
NICE has recommended three treatments for COVID in adults, the oral antiviral Paxlovid from Pfizer Inc and two repurposed arthritis drugs, RoActemra from Roche and Olumiant, made by Eli Lilly and Co, subject to UK approval. United for the treatment of COVID-19.
An expert has said some of the COVID treatments that NICE is recommending against are an important part of the UK government’s current strategy.
“Therapeutics is a major factor in the Government’s strategy for ‘living’ with COVID as it provides a safety net for those who cannot provide beneficial responses to vaccines,” said Stephen Griffin, Associate Professor at the Leeds Institute. of Medical Research.
Ending the use of these treatments would leave even more people vulnerable, he added.
The cost-effectiveness review comes as countries and global agencies consider further changes to COVID healthcare.
Last week, however, the Biden administration said the United States would keep the public health emergency status of the COVID pandemic in place there, allowing millions of Americans to continue to receive tests. , vaccines and free treatments. (Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Bill Berkrot)