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Friday, May 13, 2022

Malaysia approves AstraZeneca's drug for Covid-19 prevention


Malaysia has conditionally approved the monoclonal antibody drug Evusheld for preventing Covid-19 in certain vulnerable populations.

“(It is indicated) to be used as pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent Covid-19 for adults and adolescents aged 12 and above with a bodyweight of at least 40kg; and may not be able to produce an adequate immune response to Covid-19 vaccination or are contraindicated against Covid-19 vaccination,” Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said yesterday.

The drug produced by AstraZeneca in Sweden will have to be administered in accordance with the ministry’s guidelines and the approval is subject to constant monitoring by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency.

“For information, this product is not intended as a replacement for Covid-19 vaccination or public health measures, especially SOP compliance,” Noor Hisham added.

Covid-19 vaccines work by inducing the body’s immune system into producing antibodies that can neutralise the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes Covid-19, and train immune cells to rapidly produce more antibodies if it encounters the virus in the future.

The antibodies produced in this manner are relatively short-lived, though the vaccine-induced immune memory against the virus could potentially last for years to replenish antibody levels on short notice.

Health Ministry director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah

However, people with weak immune systems may not produce a sufficient immune response to the vaccines for it to be effective. Monoclonal antibody therapy can circumvent this by mass-producing the antibodies in laboratories and then injecting them into a patient.

Those who could potentially benefit from this include cancer patients and organ transplant patients, whose immune systems may have been suppressed as part of the treatment of their condition. People who are immunocompromised due to disease can also benefit.

Evusheld comprises the antibodies tixagevimab and cilgavimab, which are human antibodies that had been modified to last longer than usual. However, the drug still has to be re-administered every few months to retain its protection.

In trials, the antibody cocktail reduced the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 infection by 83 percent among high-risk and immunocompromised patients.

However, there are conflicting laboratory reports on whether the appearance of the Omicron Covid-19 variant would reduce its efficacy. The implications of the laboratory studies in the real world are also unclear. - Mkini

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