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The antibody treatment cocktail that can help Sri Lanka combat Covid-19 in high-risk patients



REGN-COV2, an antibody drug cocktail for the treatment of coronavirus patients by pharmaceutical giant Roche, has received Emergency Use Authorization and approval in the US, Europe, Switzerland, India and Japan. This antibody treatment was successfully administered to former US President Donald Trump after he contracted Covid-19 in October last year. The drug cocktail is projected to reduce Covid-19 hospitalizations by 70%.

REGN-COV2 is a cocktail of two monoclonal antibodies, Casirivimab and Imdevimab, and is used for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in high-risk patients. Monoclonal antibodies are two laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as a virus. Antibodies Casirivimab and Imdevimab were specifically designed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, directed to block the virus’s attachment and entry into the human cells.

“Latest clinical trials results show the important medical benefit casirivimab and imdevimab (Roche antibody cocktail) may provide to people with Covid-19 by significantly reducing their risk of hospitalization and death. This is very important for us to manage our patients as well”, said Dr. Chintaka De Silva, Senior Consultant Physician, Sri Jayewardenepura Hospital.

Due to the distinct engineering of the two neutralising antibodies, the REGN-COV2 remains effective against widest spread variants and reduces the risk of losing its neutralising potency against any new emerging coronavirus variants.

The two-drug cocktail is to be administered for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in adults and paediatric patients (12 or older) who are at high risk of developing severe disease. High risk patients include those over 60 or those who are immunosuppressed, undergoing cancer treatment, bone marrow or organ transplant or having multiple illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, chronic lung or kidney disease, diabetes etc.

Roche’s phase III global trial using over 4,500 high-risk, non-hospitalised Covid-19 patients, met its primary target, showing that its approved combined dose of 1200 mg (600 mg of each drug) significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 70% and also shortened the duration of symptoms within one week. Further results showed that the cocktail reduced risk of symptomatic coronavirus infections by 81% and reduced asymptomatic patients progressing to symptomatic Covid-19 by 31%.

Former US President Donald Trump was given a higher dose of REGN-COV2 in its experimental stages back in October 2020 when he contracted the virus and was reported to have completed the infusion successfully without incident.

The cocktail has received Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) in several countries. USA was the first to grant approval to this drug in November 2020, where the antibody cocktail was authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under an EUA. This was followed by the scientific opinion of the European Medicines Agency’s Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) in February 2021 that confirmed REGN-COV2 as a treatment option for patients with confirmed Covid-19 who do not require oxygen supplementation and who are at high risk of progressing to severe Covid-19. Switzerland also received the go-ahead by Swissmedic for distribution of the two-drug cocktail in April 2021.

India, the second worst affected country in the world, announced in early May that the Central Drugs Standards Control Organisation (CDSCO) has provided an EUA for Roche’s antibody cocktail in India and that the drug will be made available through leading hospitals and Covid treatment centres to curb the country’s rising and staggering numbers of coronavirus positive cases and deaths. Japan also confirmed that it has concluded agreements with Roche for the purchase of doses of the antibody cocktail, pending approval by health ministry, as a new effective addition to Japan’s Covid-19 treatment plan.

Experts believe that monoclonal antibodies would prove to be a game changer in the treatment of Covid-19 in the coming days and opines that the antibody cocktail drug is an excellent combination drug to check severe manifestations of the disease and the administration of it would only complement the ongoing vaccination drives in the country.



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Lift restrictions on 21 June, and be prepared for dire consequences – Medical Specialists



By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Association of Medical Specialists (AMS) President Dr. Lakkumar Fernando yesterday urged the government to reconsider its decision to lift the travel restrictions on 21 June on account of the detection of the Indian or Delta variant of COVID-19 in the country.

Speaking to The Island yesterday, Dr. Fernando said: “The Ex-Co and COVID committee of the AMS met on Thursday before it was announced that the Indian variant had been found in the community, and we decided to ask the government to continue the travel restrictions until 28 June.”

The AMS President added that the detection of the Indian variant from Dematagoda was an alarming development as the Indian variant was more transmissible than the UK variant.

“Reopening the country even after this detection is a very bad idea. We detected the UK variant on 08 April 2021 but we allowed people to celebrate the New Year. I feel that the government is repeating the same mistake,” he said.

Dr. Fernando urged the government to have discussions with a broad section of experts in the coming two days and take a more informed decision as we are likely lose more valuable lives if we are not careful enough in our decision making. “I don’t think the government has sought advice from experts,” he said.

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SLPP will not let disputes with Gammanpila undermine govt.



…will vote against SJB’s no-faith motion

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) yesterday (18) said that whatever the differences the party had with Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila, it would not undermine President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s government. A senior SLPP spokesperson said so when The Island sought their response to Samagi Jana Balavegaya planning to move a no-faith motion against attorney-at-law Gammanpila over the recent increase in prices of fuel.

The SJB early this week declared its intention to hand over a no-faith motion against Gammanpila to Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena. Already, the JVP and the UNP have questioned the SJB’s exercise.

The SLPP stood solidly with the stand taken by its General Secretary attorney-at-law Sagara Kariyawasam, MP, in respect of Minister Gammanpila, the official said. According to him, SJB’s certain defeat at the forthcoming vote should not be considered an endorsement of the energy minister.

However, the SJB would not be allowed to exploit the dispute between the party and Minister Gammanpila, under any circumstances, party sources said. The SLPP has been in touch with SLPP strategist Basil Rajapaksa, currently in the US, throughout the conflict, sources said.

The SJB’s no-faith motion would be easily defeated, sources said, pointing out that the SLPP group in the government parliamentary group accounted for 115 excluding the Speaker. The SJB parliamentary group comprised 54 members, including seven National List appointees. One of the NL members, Diana Gamage has switched her allegiance to the SLPP.

Sources revealed that on behalf of the SLPP group, the General Secretary of the party, lawmaker Kariyawasam discussed the developments with SLPP leader Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The SLPP group is expected to meet coming Monday (21) to reach consensus on a settlement. Sources said that a no holds barred discussion was with MP Kariyawasam getting an opportunity to explain his stand.

Referring to a statement dated June 12 issued by MP Kariyawasam demanding Minister Gammanpila’s resignation, SLPP underscored the need to set the record straight.

The SLPP General Secretary did not challenge the fuel increase announced by Minister Gammanpila as the party realized the government had no other option, sources said. However, there was no change in the SLPP’s stand in respect of Minister Gammanpila as he did nothing to improve the energy sector coming under his purview, sources said. The SLPP alleged that Minister Gammanpila had done nothing except taking advantage of gullible media.

Responding to another query, sources questioned the rationale in a recent statement issued by eight political parties, affiliated to the SLPP, in support of Minister Gammanpila. Except one political party therein, other parties comprised just one lawmaker each. There were two National List members, too among that eight-member group, sources said, adding that PHU, was represented in parliament by just one MP (Gammanpila.)

Sources said that the SLPP felt that there should be a consensus among the main party and its constituents on major policy decisions. Sources questioned the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the PHU pursuing an agenda inimical to the government. How could they take a different stand on some contentious issues publicly having been members of the cabinet of ministers, sources asked, accusing them of sabotaging key policy decisions.

The SLPP emphasized that the ruling coalition would have to reach a consensus on a common agenda or face catastrophic consequences.

Sources alleged that Weerawansa-Gammanpila led group sabotaged an agreement the incumbent administration worked out with India on the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Harbour.

Asked to explain, sources said that the previous Sirisena-Wickremesinghe had finalized agreements in respect of Mattala airport, ECT, remaining tanks at the Trincomnalee oil tank farm and LNG plant at Sampur with India. Following the last presidential election, the incumbent government decided to go ahead with only the ECT project in the Colombo South Harbour.

The SLPP said that the agreement on ECT was certainly not a popular one though it could have helped efforts to revive the national economy. But, Weerawansa-Gammanpila group as usual played politics with the issue at hand and took credit for stopping the project.

Sources said that the country would have faced eternal blackouts if the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave into pressure meant to stop Norochcholai coal-fired power plant.


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1,390 more lockdown violators arrested



The police had arrested 1,390 persons who violated lockdown regulations on Thursday (17), Police Spokesman DIG Ajith Rohana said. The bulk of the arrests numbering 172 were made by the Kuliyapitiya Police, 133 by Matale Police and 121 by Kandy Police.

The police have arrested 38,311 people so far for violating quarantine regulations since 30 October 2020.

About 6,797 people were questioned at checkpoints set up at 14 entry and exit points in the Western Province on Thursday and 108 of them were warned and sent back for attempting to cross provincial borders in violation of the current travel restrictions.

Meanwhile, the Police are planning to carry out a special operation during this weekend to arrest those who violate health regulations by increasing mobile patrols, roadblocks and motorcycle patrols, DIG Rohana added.

Drone operations too will be conducted in Colombo and suburban areas to identify individuals who violate lockdown rules and regulations.



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