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Supporting patients for fair access to anti-virals for Covid-19

16 November 2022

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today published draft recommendations to drastically reduce the number of anti-viral treatment options available for people with Covid-19. With large numbers of people on immunosuppressants or with poor kidney function left exposed by an inadequate response to the vaccines, we are fighting this discriminatory, unjust decision.

We are very concerned that NICE has recommended that the range of treatments for Covid-19 patients who do not need supplementary oxygen, is reduced to just one drug, Paxlovid, which cannot be used alongside anti-rejection drugs or in patients with reduced kidney function.

“Kidney patients have been horribly let down by this draft recommendation,” said Alison Railton, head of policy and external affairs at Kidney Research UK. “They should not be forced to choose between withdrawing from society to shield from infection or risking severe outcomes from Covid-19 infection without adequate available treatments.

"With a notable proportion of the at-risk kidney disease community from ethnic minority backgrounds, older, and potentially living with disabilities, this decision could exacerbate health inequalities. The decision not to factor such health inequalities into NICE’s cost-benefit analysis represents clear discrimination, placing lesser value on their lives and welfare.

Sotrovimab is a crucial treatment option for kidney patients with Covid-19, having proven effective in clinical trials and holding up to Covid-19 variants in real world data. Further studies to help specifically identify which patients could benefit, notably the MELODY study, are due to report shortly. We’re calling on NICE to reverse its recommendation to withdraw access to sotrovimab.

Professor Liz Lightstone, Kidney Research UK trustee and consultant renal physician commented: “The relative risk of serious infection with Covid-19 is higher than ever for patients with bad kidney function and those with solid organ transplants. Despite this, they are the very group discriminated against by NICE’s recommendation that the only drug that should remain available to prevent severe infection, is the one drug that most kidney patients cannot have.  It is shocking that NICE suggest withdrawing access to sotrovimab given the recent real world data suggesting continued benefit and given that the MELODY study will report in spring 2023 on vaccine effectiveness for this group.”

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