Results of a study of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc and Sanofi SA’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara indicate it may only help the sickest coronavirus patients, the companies said on Monday, dampening hopes the medicine could benefit a wider group of those infected.
The drugmakers said they would continue to test high doses of Kevzara only in those who are considered critically ill with COVID-19, the disease caused by the highly contagious virus. The decision was based on guidance from an independent committee that reviewed early trial data, which showed it did not help patients deemed severely ill.
Patients who required mechanical ventilation or high-flow oxygen therapy or treatment in an intensive care unit were considered critically ill. Those who required oxygen without mechanical or high-flow oxygenation were considered severely ill.
There are currently no approved treatments specifically for the novel coronavirus, so drugmakers are rushing to test existing medicines as well as experimental therapies in the hope that something will help alter the course of the illness that has infected more than 3 million people and killed over 208,000 worldwide.
Kevzara’s mixed results raise concerns that the benefit in critical COVID-19 patients could be a spurious conclusion and may not indicate any real benefit, said RBC Capital Markets analyst Kennen MacKay.
Regeneron has also identified hundreds of virus-neutralizing antibodies and is working to select the best two candidates for a “cocktail” therapy that might treat and even prevent the disease, with the expectation of starting human trials in June.
Regeneron shares, which have risen 51 percent so far this year, were down 2.5 percent at $551.88.
Scientists are at work in the VirPath university laboratory in Lyon, France, February 5, 2020 as they try to find an effective treatment against the new SARS-like coronavirus. (AFP)
Early analysis of the study showed that Kevzara rapidly lowered levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation. However, the companies reported negative trends for most "severely" ill patients given the drug, while there were positive trends in the critically ill group.