People who are vulnerable to becoming seriously ill with COVID are being “forgotten” and face an “uncertain future” with “many patients being missed off” eligibility lists for drugs to fight the virus, a charity has told Sky News.
Patients deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable in England should have been contacted by the NHS earlier this month to inform them they were eligible for specially-developed antiviral drugs or monoclonal antibodies in the event they catch COVID.
But Myeloma UK has told Sky News it has heard from patients who have not received an NHS letter – while others have been denied the drug treatment because their symptoms were “too mild”.
It comes after Phil Edwards, a patient in Corby near Kettering, ended up in hospital for several days after his condition worsened, prompting his “shocked” GP to raise it as a major incident and his family to call on the government to do more.
‘We are seriously concerned’
Jo Nove, acting chief executive at Myeloma UK, said: “We are seriously concerned that clinically extremely vulnerable patients are being forgotten in this pandemic.
“It is hard to gauge the extent of the issue and we are worried that many patients have been missed off eligibility lists and therefore don’t even know they’re entitled to the drugs.
“The government has said that we must learn to live with COVID-19 and consider what adaptations to pre-pandemic life we might need for society to open up again and get back to normal.
“Clinically extremely vulnerable patients need assurances that they will be able to access antivirals and treatments, without needless red tape, before they feel ready to think about a return to normality.
“We are rushing into an uncertain future, in which immunocompromised patients are being asked to make difficult choices and assess their own risk without a clear framework of protections in place.”
Mr Edwards, 60, who was diagnosed with myeloma last August, was discharged from hospital after three days – but his family told of their anger over how the antiviral drugs were not made available.
‘I don’t know what the government is doing’
His wife, Tracey, said: “We tried for several days to get him the antivirals but to no avail.
“Finally we managed to get a doctor to prescribe the drugs only to be told no chemist had them.
“I don’t know what the government is doing but it’s not enough. There seems to be a massive lack of awareness by medical staff about this issue.”
According to the NHS website, the COVID treatments are for people aged 12 and over who are at “highest risk” and have tested positive by PCR.
Risk groups include people with Down’s syndrome, chronic kidney disease, HIV or AIDS, certain types of cancer and a severe liver condition.
Many vulnerable patients, particularly those with cancer, still do not know what level of protection they are given from the COVID vaccines amid calls for antibody tests to be made more widely available.