Eligibility for Covid-19 treatments - Ataxia UK

Eligibility for Covid-19 treatments

Post Published: December 23, 2021

Updated: June 6, 2022

Coronavirus Treatments

The COVID-19 vaccines continue to remain the best way to defend against a coronavirus infection. However, for some people with certain health conditions there remains the risk of becoming seriously unwell with a coronavirus infection. In addition to the vaccines, the NHS are now offering new monoclonal antibody and antiviral treatments to individuals deemed to be at the highest risk from COVID-19. They are designed to help people in the community, who are in the earliest stages of infection, by stopping serious illness. To be effective, the treatments need to be given as soon as possible following symptoms and a positive lateral flow test. The following information will help you to understand more about the treatments and who might be able to access the treatments and how they can be accessed.

Who can access COVID-19 treatments?

You may be eligible for a COVID-19 treatment if all the following criteria apply:

  • You are 12 and over
  • You are at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill from a COVID-19 infection
  • You have symptoms of COVID-19
  • You have tested positive for COVID-19

You may be at the highest risk of developing severe disease from COVID-19 if you have one of the listed conditions below:

  • Down syndrome
  • certain types of cancer or if you’ve had treatment for a certain cancer
  • sickle cell disease
  • chronic kidney disease (stage 4 or 5)
  • severe liver disease
  • if you’ve had an organ transplant
  • certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease
  • HIV or AIDS and a weakened immune system
  • a condition that affects your immune system
  • a rare condition affecting the brain or nerves (multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Huntingdon’s disease, or myasthenia gravis)

Once a referral has been made to the Covid medicines delivery unit (CMDU), a doctor or a specialist will carry out an assessment to see if you will be eligible to receive the treatment.

How to access treatments

Access to treatments will be down to testing for a COVD-19 infection. In the early stages of the COVID-19 treatments rollout, access to these medicines were only available following a positive PCR test, and people deemed eligible at the time were advised to keep a spare PCR test kit at home in case they began to experience symptoms. PCR testing is no longer available in most areas of the UK. If you still have a PCR test kit at home, you can keep a hold of it as you may be asked to use it later by the NHS team arranging your treatment.

A lateral flow test (LFT) will need to be used to test for a COVID-19 infection. It is important to note that since the 1st of April, access to a LFT is not widely available for most people. However, for people who are eligible for COVID-19 treatments, it is possible to access to tests.

You should make sure that you have some test kits at home. If you need to order more tests, or you do not have any you should order your free tests via the GOV.UK website: https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests. You can also call 119 to order tests if you are unable to do so online.

If you begin to experience COVID-19 symptoms, you will need to complete a LFT following the kit instructions as soon as possible. You should do this even if your initial symptoms seem mild. It is important that the test you are completing is an NHS test, and not one you have purchased privately. This is because it is not possible to report the result of a private test on the GOV website and will mean that you cannot be contacted by the NHS about COVID-19 treatments.

Once you have carried out a test, you must report the result of the rapid test via https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result or by calling 119. It is important to carry out these steps without delay, so that you can be contacted by the NHS if your result is positive.

If you do receive a positive LFT and you are eligible for a COVID-19 treatment, the treatment will need to begin very soon after the start of your symptoms – this is so the medicine can work more effectively. You will usually be contacted within 24 hours of a positive result by a clinician from the NHS. The NHS doctor will need to speak with you to get some more information, they might ask some questions about any medication that you take. It’s important to let them know as much information as possible so they can check if treatment would be appropriate.

The NHS team that gets in touch will let you know which treatment will be suitable for you and they will give you the information on how to access this. Some of the COVID-19 treatments can be taken at home and others will need to be given in hospital or health clinic. All treatments for COVID-19 are free on the NHS, and you will never be asked to pay for any prescribed medication.

If you have not been contacted by the NHS within 24 hours of a positive test, and are eligible for treatment, you should contact your GP practice, or you can call 111. An urgent referral can be made from your GP, or via 111. You should alert them to your neurological diagnosis (i.e. ‘rare condition affecting the brain or nerves’)

Treatment advice for Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland

For the latest information about the treatments in the other UK nations, please visit:

What treatments are available?

The available treatments have shown a reduction in the risk of hospitalisation and severe illness. The following treatments are being delivered by the Covid Medicines Delivery Unit (CMDU) team and available on the NHS to those who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • Paxlovid is an oral antiviral medicine. Paxlovid has many potential drug interactions, which means that it may not be suitable for many high-risk patients. The assessing clinician should be made aware of any medication you take to manage your condition, so they can make an informed decision about whether this line of treatment would be suitable.
  • Sotrovimab is a biological medicine, also known as a neutralising monoclonal antibody treatment. It is a one-dose therapy, which needs to be given through a drip (infusion) in your arm and can only be delivered in a clinical setting, such as a care centre or a hospital. The CMDU will advise you on how and where you will receive this treatment, including information on how to travel there and back safely.
  • Remdesivir is an antiviral treatment given through infusion like Sotrovimab, however unlike Sotrovimab, which only requires one treatment, remdesivir is given over three separate days. You can start remdesivir seven days after the onset of symptoms.
  • Molnupiravir: is an antiviral medicine that works to stop the virus from growing and spreading. Like Paxlovid, this is an oral medicine that comes in capsules, and is to be taken at home. It is important to carefully follow the advice of the clinician who has prescribed this medication to ensure you are taking the treatment correctly.

For further information on the available treatments, please refer to the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/treatments-for-coronavirus/

Panoramic Trial

Antiviral medicines are also available through a national trial, run by the University of Oxford. Click here for more information on accessing treatment through this trial. The trial is open to people in the UK who:

  • have tested positive for COVID-19 using a PCR test
  • have COVID-19 symptoms that started within the last 5 days
  • are aged 50 and over, or are aged 18 and over with a health condition that puts them at high risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 (this includes chronic neurological conditions)

This information has been written in collaboration with Prof Giunti and Suzanne Booth from the London Ataxia Centre at NHNN.

Please understand that this advice is given on the basis of the limited information provided, and that neither Ataxia UK nor the Medical Advisor can accept responsibility for any actions arising from it. 

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