20210329 uae COVID-19 cases
A COVID-19 ward at a hospital in the UAE. Sotrovimab is used for COVID-19 patients who have a high risk of developing severe symptoms, with need for hospitalisation. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: A select group of patients at Abu Dhabi’s public facilities have on Thursday become the first in the UAE to be treated with Sotrovimab, the latest anti-COVID-19 medication approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

The monoclonal antibody therapy has also been approved for use in the UAE, by the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) for COVID-19 patients aged 12 years and older who meet certain other criteria. On Wednesday, June 16, the Abu Dhabi Media Office announced that Abu Dhabi had become the first location globally to receive shipments of the anti-COVID-19 treatment.

Sotrovimab is used for COVID-19 patients who have a high risk of developing severe symptoms, with need for hospitalisation. It is manufactured by British pharmaceutical giant, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). According to reports, the drug has been shown to reduce fatalities by up to 85 per cent, as well as the number of COVID-19 cases that require hospitalisation for more than 24 hours.

Landmark agreement

The drug has been sourced following a landmark agreement between GSK and the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH), the emirate’s health regulator, and Rafed, the UAE’s leading group purchasing organisation (GPO). The first shipment arrived at Abu Dhabi International Airport on Tuesday, and the emirate’s public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha) announced on Thursday that the treatment is now available at its facilities based on doctor’s assessments.

Patients in the UAE are among the first in the world to have access to the new therapy. The National Scientific Committee in MoHAP and DoH have worked on the treatment protocols that will guide doctors in defining at-risk patients, and ensuring that they have access to Sotrovimab according to their risk profile and eligibility criteria.

Rafed is facilitating the procurement, storage and distribution of Sotrovimab via the Rafed Distribution Centre in Masdar City. The facility is also the region’s largest specialised cold-storage facility and hub for the Hope Consortium, a logistical solution for COVID-19 vaccine storage and distribution.

'Resilience and safety'

“Abu Dhabi continues in its efforts to maintain its number one city position globally in terms of resilience and safety in COVID-19 times. Through the non-ending support and guidance from our leadership, we continue in our daily pre-emptive efforts to search, assess and source through local and international collaboration, the best evidence-based treatment to our population in Abu Dhabi, UAE and beyond. This medicine is at the forefront of pharmaceutical advancement and is a powerful tool in our fight to end this pandemic. We look forward to implement the eligibility criteria for emergency use of Sotrovimab as part of Abu Dhabi’s commitment to lead an all-encompassing COVID -19 response in prevention, treatment and care,” announced Dr Jamal Al Kaabi, DoH undersecretary.

“Sotrovimab represents a massive breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19. Through our close collaboration and partnership with the DoH and GSK, we have been able to work swiftly in the procurement of the medication to ensure an effective and timely roll-out across the UAE. The Rafed Distribution Centre continues to fulfil its mission of better serving the UAE public and extending Abu Dhabi’s Covid-19 response to the world,” said Rashed Al Qubaisi, Rafed chief executive officer.

As the DoH finalises a coherent framework to determine eligibility for Sotrovimab treatment, Etihad Cargo, the cargo and logistics arm of the Etihad Aviation Group, and Hope Consortium have transported the first batch of Sotrovimab into the UAE utilising its IATA CEIV-certified PharmaLife product.

Positive opinions

After receiving positive scientific opinions by the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) Committee for Human Medicinal Products — an important step for the use of the medication for early treatment of COVID-19 across Europe — GSK has submitted an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) application to the FDA and MoHAP, and received approvals from both.

“We have been working very closely with the Department of Health and Rafed since the interim results of the clinical trials with Sotrovimab were available. The DOH and Rafed have been agile and passionate about accelerating patient access to promising new treatments to confront COVID-19. Our partnership with DOH and Rafed is holistic, securing early access to Sotrovimab so that the population in Abu Dhabi and UAE will be among the first in the world to get this new treatment. There is a great level of scientific and medical collaboration to ensure that medical teams are ready and equipped. As GSK, we see this close cooperation as another sign of Abu Dhabi’s rapid development as a hub for first class treatment, medicines research, logistics and manufacturing,” said Gizem Akalin, GSK Gulf managing director and vice president.