Blood cancer: Charity calls for life-saving treatment to be made available in the UK

The word freedom has been thrown around with so much energy in recent years, one could almost forget whether it carried the substance of meaning or had the weight of a helium balloon. Freedom has been used at great length to describe the removal of lockdown restrictions; it was used to capture the joy of millions as they no longer had to social distance or wear a mask. However, not everyone was set free by the loosening of restrictions; amid the rush to the dancefloors and restaurants of the nation’s streets, 500,000 people got left behind. Now the dust has settled, campaigners are concerned this group has been left behind.

This group are the immunocompromised.

As a result of their weakened immune systems, meaning no number of vaccine doses will prove effective, most of them have had to continue shielding.

Despite this, there is a way for them to join the rest of the country in viral liberation.

The key is in an antibody treatment known as Evusheld; this provides each immunocompromised person with around six month’s protection from COVID-19.

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This means someone who is immunocompromised would need just two doses a year to keep them safe from Covid.

There’s just one problem: the Government hasn’t bought a single dose.

Responding to an online petition in May, it justified its lack of action with the following statement: “The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency [MHRA] approves the product for use in Great Britain. However, the MHRA has highlighted the efficacy of Evusheld against the Omicron variant is not yet fully understood. The MHRA noted a higher dose might be required.”

Although the Government cites a lack of evidence, a March statement from the makers of the drug, AstraZeneca said: “Evusheld reduced viral burden and limited inflammation caused by Omicron. The findings further support Evusheld as a potential important option to help protect vulnerable patients such as the immunocompromised who could face poor outcomes if they were to become infected with COVID-19.”

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In short, the evidence the Government is looking for already exists.

Speaking to Express.co.uk Blood Cancer UK’s Research Communications Manager Rachel Khan said: “For some time, we have been urging the Government to set out its approach to using preventative treatments for people who have not responded well to the vaccines, and it is disappointing that it has not yet done so.

“Many people with blood cancer have now spent almost two years avoiding social interaction – the Government needs to do more to support them to be able to start getting back to normal.”

Ms Kahn added: “There is significant published research showing the treatment is effective against the current dominant Covid variant in the UK, and there has been for many weeks.”

Mr Abdeh to the Express: “This type of cancer can cause widely differing symptoms to break out in different parts of the body.“Unexplained lumps or swellings can be symptoms of blood cancer, as can itching skin or a rash that appears from nowhere. Another physical symptom of blood cancer is bruising or bleeding for no apparent reason. The skin under the lower eyelid can also change from pink to white.”Mr Abdeh added: “Unexplained weight loss can occur because of blood cancer. You may feel short of breath when you are suffering from blood cancer, too.”

In common with all cancers, it is crucial to know the symptoms so action can be taken as soon as possible, and a life potentially saved.

In response Express.co.uk’s request for comment a government spokesperson said:

“Those most at-risk from Covid are eligible to receive one of our life-saving antivirals if they catch the virus, and the UK has procured more doses per head than any other country in Europe.

“The MHRA’s market authorisation of Evusheld was based on the product’s clinical effectiveness against the Delta variant, and by the time of its authorisation, Omicron had emerged as the dominant variant.

“The UK Health Security Agency is carrying out further testing on Evusheld’s effectiveness against Omicron. We will closely monitor these results, which will inform decisions on next steps including procurement.”

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