SMC plays key role in helping to secure access to COVID-19 treatments

The Scottish Medicines Consortium is part of a UK-wide multi-agency initiative to secure access to potential new treatments for COVID-19 to NHS patients quickly and safely.

The Research to Access Pathway for Investigational Drugs for COVID-19 (RAPID-C19) initiative is a collaboration between NHS England and NHS Improvement, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), SMC and HTA organisations in Wales and Northern Ireland.

The initiative, which was set up in April, helps speed up access to treatments for COVID-19 where research shows there is clinical benefit and they are proven to be safe and effective.

Following an initial scan of all national and international trials for COVID-19 treatments by the NIHR Innovation Observatory, NICE gathers information from collaborating organisations, companies and other sources. Medicine briefings and rapid action plans (RAPs) are then developed for the RAPID C-19 oversight group who advise on which treatments should be accelerated and considered for regulatory approval. Our SMC Chief Pharmacist Anne Lee, and chair, Mark MacGregor, have been closely involved in the oversight group, providing Scottish context for UK clinical guidance and commissioning policies.     

Our horizon scanning team has also played an important role in this process by producing a number of the medicine briefings considered by the RAPID C-19 oversight group.

One of the potential routes to access is the MHRA Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), which is managed by the Medicines and Pharmacy team.  This route was used for the antiviral remdesivir. The Medicines and Pharmacy Team worked at pace to develop guidance on this for Boards in May. This medicine has now been licensed for use in seriously ill patients with COVID-19.

The initiative has also helped support early access to dexamethasone, a low-dose steroid treatment.

Anne said:

“It is really valuable to be involved in this fast paced work and to work closely with colleagues across so many national agencies. There are many medicines in clinical trials across the world, and though to date few have shown benefit, we can be confident of identifying and fast tracking those that do show promise.  The work is continuing as the pandemic evolves.”

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