New anti-viral drug to treat Covid-19 hospital patients to be made available in Northern Ireland
A new anti-viral drug to treat coronavirus patients is to be introduced in Northern Ireland.
Health minister Robin Swann has confirmed that Remdesivir will be made available to those with serious medical conditions to support their recovery in hospital.
Earlier this month, a global clinical trial found the drug cut the length of time people suffered symptoms from 15 days to 11.
The ongoing trial involves around 1,000 patients from hospitals in countries including the UK, US, France, Italy and China.
Doctors will now be able to prescribe the drug to adult and adolescent hospital inpatients in the north who have severe Covid-19 infection where there is a likelihood it will benefit them.
Remdesivir is an anti-viral medicine that was originally developed to fight Ebola.
Mr Swann said the drug will be made available through the Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), which aims to give patients with life-threatening or seriously debilitating conditions access to medicines that do not yet have a marketing authorisation when there is a clear unmet medical need.
Health trusts in Northern Ireland will be able to apply for access to the treatment for eligible patients.
The health minister described the development as a "positive step in the fightback against Covid-19".
"It is only a few short months ago that we were first faced with this previously unknown virus. Amazing progress has been made in producing and delivering this anti-viral in a short timescale," Mr Swann said.
"Science has been at the forefront in these unprecedented times and it is through science that we will see breakthroughs in treatments for Covid-19.
"Patient safety will remain a priority and we will monitor the success of Remdesivir through the early access scheme and clinical trials to ensure the best results for all patients."