Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing, following your recent appointment, to request an update on the rollout of Evusheld, and impress upon you the importance of ensuring that those who need additional access to antiviral treatments and information are given the support that they deserve.
As you will no doubt be aware, Evusheld is a pre-exposure prophylaxis designed to protect those who are acutely vulnerable to Covid-19.
Clinical trials have shown that Evusheld provides a 77% reduced risk of symptomatic disease over a three-month period, which increases to 83% after six months. It has already been rolled-out across many countries, including in France and the United States, and was granted conditional marketing authorisation for the United Kingdom in March 2022.
We wrote to your predecessor soon after that authorisation was granted and are extremely disappointed that there has been so little movement on this issue since.
On Sunday, over 120 leading clinicians signed a clinical consensus statement declaring that Evusheld should be used as soon as possible to protect people most vulnerable to Covid-19. Last week, 19 charities wrote an open letter to you, urging the Government to provide this drug for people who are immunocompromised.
Covid-19 has not gone away, and we have had multiple conversations with clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable and immunosuppressed patient support groups who are understandably concerned about the lack of urgency around the rollout of Evusheld. In a recent response to a written question, the Minister for Vaccines and Public Health advised that DHSC were ‘identifying appropriate patient cohorts and approaches to the potential deployment of pre-exposure prophylaxis’, and that she was ‘unable to confirm an estimated date for the availability of Evusheld.’
At the last health questions, the Minister stated that DHSC were still ‘considering advice‘ from clinicians, and declined to give a specific timetable for when the Government would set out its position. It is frankly inexcusable that – so long after authorisation was granted – the Government still hasn’t identified appropriate cohorts or finalised a strategy to deploy this lifesaving drug.
Clinically vulnerable, clinically extremely vulnerable and immunosuppressed people deserve clarity and support from the Government. We would therefore be grateful if you could answer the following questions as a matter of urgency:
- Will you provide an urgent update on the rollout of Evusheld, outlining a timeline for deployment?
- Will you commit to providing clear and regular pro-active communication with patient support groups to update on progress with the Evusheld rollout?
- Will you convene an urgent meeting between UKHSA and manufacturers to outline the clinical advice your Department has received about the effectiveness of Evusheld against Omicron? If it is assessed as effective, what plans do you have to expedite procurement?
- What assurances can you give to those who need access to antiviral treatments that they will be given the support they need?
This issue is of the utmost importance. It is unacceptable that more than four months after Evusheld was granted approval by the MHRA, the Government has still not given any indication of how and when it plans to roll out the drug.
We cannot afford any further delay.