New antibody drug Evusheld now available to certain Quebecers to prevent COVID-19

Some Quebecers will now have access to a new antibody therapy drug from AstraZeneca intended to help prevent a COVID-19 infection for those who don't respond well to vaccines.

Health Minister Christian Dubé announced Monday that the province has received from the federal government 6,465 doses of Evusheld, a new drug designed to give people who do not develop enough antibodies from vaccination some added protection.

Evusheld, approved by Health Canada on April 14, will be available for free, by prescription only, to people who meet certain criteria. Those eligible include people 18 and older who are severely immunocompromised and people at high risk for COVID-19 infection and have a contraindication to the vaccine. Adolescents who are 88 pounds or heavier and are immunocompromised are also eligible.

More informaiton on the eligibility conditions is available on the province's website. The injection, administered in each buttock, is expected to provide protection for at least six months.

The monoclonal antibodies, a combination of tixagevimab and cilgavimab, "are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus' attachment and entry into human cells," the FDA said when it approved it in the U.S.

Data from phase three clinical trials of the drug showed that it was 83 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection six months after injection compared to a placebo, according to a news release from AstraZeneca last December. The company said studies are underway to assess the impact of Evusheld on the Omicron variant. 

"It is important to clarify that Evusheld TM is used to prevent a person from contracting COVID-19 and not to treat them once they have contracted the disease, like Paxlovid," Dubé said in a news release Monday, referring to the drug authorized in Quebec last month to treat a COVID-19 infection.

"Such a drug responds to a specific need of certain vulnerable clienteles, especially among our severely immunosuppressed people. We are committed to facilitating access, in particular with the collaboration of our doctors, pharmacists and nurses."

Evusheld has to be prescribed by a doctor, pharmacist, or specialized nurse. Health-care facilities can begin ordering the drug from the province as of Monday.

On April 1, Quebec authorized health-care professionals to prescribe Paxlovid, an oral antiviral that works differently than Evusheld. Paxlovid is administered to reduce the severity of symptoms of COVID-19 in people at risk of developing severe complications from the infection. It would also reduce the risk of being hospitalized or dying from the novel coronavirus.


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