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Clinically vulnerable Covid patients denied access to life-saving antivirals

Clinically vulnerable people infected with Covid are being denied access to potentially life-saving antiviral medicine, patients, health officials and charities say.

Around 1.3 million people with underlying health conditions in England have been identified by the NHS as at-risk and sent letters explaining they will be assessed for antiviral treatment if infected with Covid.

The NHS said “tens of thousands of the most vulnerable patients” have received the medication to date, but told The Independent it was “aware of some local issues” in which clinically vulnerable people have struggled to access the antivirals. It comes at a time of record-breaking infection levels.

Patients seeking the treatment, which suppresses an infection to prevent disease escalation and hospitalisation, have reported being turned away by GPs and hospital doctors, while others say they’ve been “pushed from pillar to post” in an attempt to access the medication.

An NHS manager told The Independent that only 15% of eligible patients cared for by Kent and Medway Clinical Commissioning Group received antiviral medication in February.

Anthony Nolan, the blood cancer charity, and Kidney Care UK both said they had received reports that Covid Medicine Delivery Units (CMDUs), which are responsible for ensuring antiviral medication reaches patients, were overwhelmed and struggling to provide treatment.

“Weekends are a particular problem and it causes a lot of stress,” said Fiona Loud, a policy director a Kidney Care UK. “We have had reports from people in different parts of the country.”

Paxlovid, molnupiravir and remdesivir are available via the NHS as antiviral medicine. All three have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation among infected vulnerable patients. Antibody treatment, administered intravenously, is also available.

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Source: The Independent, 4 April 2022


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