Approval of AstraZeneca’s Evusheld COVID treatment in Canada is ‘good news,’ experts say

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WATCH: There are different treatment options for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 – May 18, 2022

Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s antibody combination Evusheld as a treatment for COVID-19, a decision experts say is “good news” that will lead to more treatment options in the future.

AstraZeneca Canada said in a press release Tuesday that its Evusheld, a long-acting antibody combination, has received a Notice of Compliance from Health Canada to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 for those aged 12 or older.

Evusheld was approved in April for the prevention of COVID-19 in immunocompromised people.

According to Health Canada, Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody drug, which will prevent the virus from infecting healthy cells in the body.

“This can help prevent you from getting COVID-19 illness or help your body to overcome the infection and reduce the risk of you developing severe illness,” it reads.

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Dr. Zain Chagla, an infectious diseases physician and associate professor at McMaster University, said Evusheld provides a “great option” for immunocompromised patients who are particularly vulnerable to illness from COVID-19.

“There is going to be a lot of different treatments coming down the pipeline and these are really good news,” said Chagla.

He added that there’s still lots of work left to do for implementation and provincial and federal governments must ensure front-line health-care providers have access to COVID-19 treatments for patients.

“It’s really good in the sense that it’s another treatment option,” said Chagla, adding that Evusheld is “fairly easy to administer” in a single-dose injection without drug interactions.

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“The data suggests there’s a 50 per cent reduction in hospitalization and severe outcomes for people who get it,” said Chagla.

Health Canada advises patients to talk to their health care professional before taking Evusheld to “help avoid side effects and ensure proper use.”

Currently, there is not enough information to be sure that Evusheld is safe for use in pregnancy, and the treatment will only be given if the potential benefits of use outweigh the potential risks to the patient and the unborn child, Health Canada states.

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In Canada, there are other COVID-19 treatments available besides Evusheld, which range from pills like Pfizer’s Paxlovid to treatments administered via injection.

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Oral treatment antivirals such as Paxlovid, although well-tolerated and effective, might be especially tricky for patients who are on a number of medications, said Chagla.

“They can be given to patients but it requires a little bit of work and some drug monitoring while people are on it,” said Chagla.

Remdesivir — an intravenous antiviral treatment that is given as a drip into a vein lasting 30 to 120 minutes — requires patients to go in repeatedly for three separate doses, said Chagla, adding that the three-day treatment makes it really difficult to give in large scale as it requires a lot of resources in nursing and pharmacy support.

Chagla said Evusheld makes “it a little bit easier” for health-care workers giving intramuscular injections through a single patient visit.

Although Evusheld could offer good protection and treatment against COVID-19 for immunocompromised patients for now, more transmissible variants of the virus are looming and there are uncertainties regarding a fall resurgence of the virus, Dr. Horacio Bach told Global News.

“We had some antibodies that were approved in the past, but the problem is they don’t work as effectively now because the virus changed so much that these antibodies are not doing what they’re supposed to do,” said Bach, a clinical assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of British Columbia.

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As Canada prepares to transition to winter, there is a high chance that the country will face a number of new, unknown COVID-19 variants, said Bach.

“We hope that (the vaccines and treatments) we have can cover most of the Omicron variants we have now, but we don’t know what will be happening in one month,” said Bach, adding governments and people need to prepare for public health restrictions and safety precautions, like mask-wearing, to make a comeback.

The latest COVID-19 data analyzed by Global News has found reported infections have risen 15 per cent over the past month, with an average of 3,100 new cases confirmed per day. Hospitalizations are also up 10 per cent from a week ago, with more than 5,600 Canadians receiving care.

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