Roche’s Actemra Fails Test for Covid-Related Pneumonia

Roche Holding AG said its Actemra medicine failed to help patients with pneumonia caused by Covid-19 in the first of several clinical tests seeking to establish whether the blockbuster arthritis drug can help deal with the pandemic.

Injecting the medicine didn’t help improve the health of patients or reduce deaths, although it did appear to allow people to leave the hospital earlier, Roche said. The Swiss drugmaker will keep testing the arthritis drug in other treatment settings, notably combined with Gilead Sciences Inc.’s remdesivir.

Roche shares were little changed early Wednesday in Zurich.

The Roche study is one of many programs to evaluate known treatments -- from antiviral drugs to plasma from recovered patients -- against the pandemic virus.

Actemra and other medicines with the same mode of action such as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sanofi’s Kevzara spurred hope against Covid-19 because they work on inflammation, which the new virus appears to stoke in many patients.

Unlike antivirals, these drugs won’t attack the virus directly, but instead are thought to have an effect on the immune system’s response to the pathogen. The idea is to prevent the massive reaction that chokes the lungs of the sickest patients.

Actemra’s sales surged 36% in the first half of the year, a gain fueled in part by its use in Covid-19 patients.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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