'I feel special:' Teen becomes one of first UK patients to receive lifesaving Covid drug Ronapreve

Video report by ITV News Health Editor Emily Morgan

A teenager with a heart condition has told ITV News he "feels special" after becoming one of the first people in the UK to receive the lifesaving Covid antibody drug Ronapreve.

The drug, which was given to former US president Donald Trump when he had coronavirus last year, is being rolled out to vulnerable NHS hospital patients, such as 17-year-old Max Khadar.

Ronapreve can help reduce the severity of coronavirus and cut its mortality rate by a fifth. It works by boosting people's immunity, and could help thousands of patients across the UK. Doctors say it is a critical part of the continuing fight against Covid along with the booster jabs.

Health workers are hoping the drug will relieve some of the burden on the NHS this winter. Max was advised against having a Covid vaccination because of his heart condition which has weakened his immune system. This left him vulnerable to serious illness when he caught the virus earlier this week.

He said he was "sceptical" of the treatment at first but was reassured by nurses and doctors who explained how the drug worked and how it would prevent him from getting dangerously sick.

Max with his dad receiving the lifesaving drug. Credit: ITV News

"I know for sure this will help me," he told ITV News as he received the drug intravenously from his hospital bed at St George's in Tooting, south London.

"I just feel special, because if this (Ronapreve) wasn't here, you never know what could happen. This is actually helping and it's a great way to stop the spread of the virus."

Last month, Health Secretary Sajid Javid heralded Ronapreve as the first treatment designed specifically for Covid-19 to receive regulatory approval in the UK.

Its roll out is initially targeted at those who have not mounted an antibody response against Covid-19.

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Dr Carolyn Johnston Deputy Chief Medical Officer at St George's told ITV News the drug would offer "significant help, particularly for older and more vulnerable patients".

Max was given the drug after doctors at St George's found he had no Covid-19 antibodies which left him prone to "complications or poor outcomes from coronavirus", Dr Johnston said.

"The most significant thing we can do is get vaccinated to prevent any of us suffering complications from coronavirus. But for those vulnerable patients or older patients this offers additional treatments if they do happen to catch the disease despite the preventative measures we are all taking," Dr Johnston told ITV News.

Dr Carolyn Johnston says Ronapreve is a critical part of the continuing fight against Covid. Credit: ITV News

"It would reduce the risk of dying by one-fifth, and crucially will speed up their recovery, so, as the NHS comes into winter, and hospitals get busier, that will also be an additional help."The drug will be used to treat patients without antibodies who are aged 50 and over, and those aged 12 to 49 who are immunocompromised.

In August, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said the clinical trial data it assessed showed that Ronapreve can be used to prevent infection, treat symptoms of serious infection and cut the likelihood of being admitted to hospital.

Trials took place before widespread vaccination and before the emergence of virus variants.

The drug, a combination of two monoclonal antibodies, became the first monoclonal antibody combination product approved for use in the prevention and treatment of acute infection from the virus in the UK.

Covid vaccines remain our best defence against the virus. Credit: PA

Monoclonal antibodies are man-made proteins that act like natural human antibodies in the immune system.

The drug, developed by pharmaceutical firms Regeneron and Roche and previously known as REGN-Cov2, is given either by injection or infusion and acts at the lining of the respiratory system where it binds tightly to the virus and prevents it from gaining access to the cells.

The Department for Health said immunocompromised people include those with certain cancers or autoimmune diseases who have difficulty building up an antibody response to the virus, either through being exposed to Covid-19 or from being vaccinated.

Antibody testing will first be used to determine whether patients are “seronegative” – meaning they have not had a sufficient antibody response.

The treatment antibodies, casirivimab and imdevimab, will then be administered through a drip.

At the moment this treatment is only being used in a very small group of patients like Max who are immuno-suppressed but it is hoped that in time it could benefit a more broader group of patients and could really making a difference in the run up to winter.