Cancer patients to receive lifesaving COVID-19 treatments in the community
Thursday 9 December 2021
The Government has announced new treatments for COVID-19 will now be available for eligible groups of patients, including some bowel cancer patients.
These new treatments are used in the earliest stages of infection and often taken at home. The treatments should be administered as soon as possible after a confirmed COVID-19 positive PCR test has been received.
A national study, 'PANORAMIC', run by the University of Oxford in close collaboration with GPs, has now launched and is recruiting around 10,000 UK patients at risk of serious illness from COVID-19 to have the opportunity to take the treatment molnupiravir at home after receiving a positive PCR test.
Those at highest risk who test positive for the virus – for example, people who are immunocompromised or those with a solid cancer – will also be able to access either molnupiravir or the novel monoclonal antibody Ronapreve outside of the study from Thursday 16 December 2021.
This will ensure the treatments can help protect those most at risk from the virus over the winter months, reducing the number of hospitalisations and therefore pressures on the NHS. This will be significant for those who have compromised immune systems and for whom the vaccines can therefore be less effective.
Molnupiravir has shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalisation or death for at-risk, non-hospitalised adults with mild to moderate COVID-19 by 30% and Ronapreve reduced the risk by 70%.
Genevieve Edwards, Chief Executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said: "We welcome the news that there will soon be more treatment options for COVID-19 to help protect those with bowel cancer developing serious disease.
"Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and COVID-19 has not only disrupted many patients treatment but it has also placed them at greater risk of serious complications from the virus. If you have questions about your eligibility for the study or for the antiviral medications outside of the study, please contact your GP or consultant."
How can I access these treatments if I test positive for COVID-19?
There are two ways to access the new treatments if you are eligible:
The 'PANORAMIC' STUDY, which is currently for molnupiravir (antivirals you can take at home), is open to anyone in the UK, provided they:
- receive a positive PCR test
- feel unwell with symptoms of COVID-19 that started in the last five days and
- are aged 50 and over or 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition that puts them more at risk of severe COVID-19 including immunosuppression due to disease or treatment (e.g. cancer, chemotherapy)
After receiving a positive PCR result, and if you are eligible, you should be contacted by the study team or a local healthcare professional to sign up to the trial. Alternatively, you can sign up yourself through the study's website. You will need to register ASAP after your positive PCR result to make sure you can access antiviral treatments within the first five days of COVID-19 symptoms. Those taking part will either receive their usual care and a placebo, or usual care and an antiviral treatment. The study will use a computer programme to decide by chance whether you get the treatment or a placebo. This process is completely automated based on your eligibility, the trial team cannot alter this. The first set of results from the trial are expected in early 2022.
Access to molnupiravir and Ronapreve for people at highest risk of serious disease from COVID-19
The government have also announced that molnupiravir and Ronapreve (a monoclonal antibody treatment, given in hospital) will be available outside of the PANORAMIC study, for those in the highest risk group which could include people affected by bowel cancer. People will be informed by the NHS over the coming weeks if they have a condition that will make them eligible to receive these treatments, should they test positive for COVID-19.
The health conditions that may make you eligible for treatments outside of the national study include chemotherapy and radiotherapy patients, and those with a solid cancer. These patients will be able to keep a PCR test at home from NHS Test and Trace to support rapid testing, so they can access the treatments as soon as possible after symptoms begin.
Eligible patients who receive a positive test will be assessed over the phone by an expert clinician, who will review and discuss with the patient what the most appropriate treatment would be for them.
Read more about the treatment options on the Government website
Visit the coronavirus section of our website for support and information about coronavirus and bowel cancer