A “groundbreaking” new drug will be made available to some patients in the UK that could speed up their recovery from coronavirus by up to four days.
Anti-viral treatment remdesivir, produced by Gilead Sciences UK, has been licensed for use by the NHS and the Medicinal and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) after successful trials around the world.
The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said early data suggests it can shorten the time to recovery by about 4 days.
A statement said: “The Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS) and scientific opinion from the MHRA supports remdesivir to be used by selected NHS patients.
“For the time being and due to limited supplies, treatment will be prioritised for patients who have the greatest likelihood of deriving the most benefit.”
Similar arrangements have already been made with other countries, including an emergency authorisation in the US and in Japan.
Minister for Innovation, Lord James Bethell, said: “This shows fantastic progress.
“As we navigate this unprecedented period, we must be on the front foot of the latest medical advancements, while always ensuring patient safety remains a top priority.
“The latest, expert scientific advice is at the heart of every decision we make, and we will continue to monitor remdesivir’s success in clinical trials across the country to ensure the best results for UK patients.”
The Government says allocation of the drug will be based on clinical advice and will take into consideration the situation where it is most likely to provide the greatest benefit.
It also said it would work closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure remdesivir is available across the UK for suitable patients.
Hilary Hutton-Squire, Vice President and General Manager, Gilead Sciences UK and Ireland said: “We are delighted that the MHRA and the Commission on Human Medicines (CHM) have decided to issue remdesivir a positive Scientific Opinion within the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS).
“This decision reflects Gilead’s commitment to rapidly respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Treatment options in response to this global public health emergency are urgently needed and we are grateful to the UK government and the MHRA for their continued support and collaboration to make this medicine available to those patients who are most likely to benefit from it. We will continue to work closely with the government to supply remdesivir across the UK.”