AstraZeneca Antibody Drug Effective at Treating Mild Covid in Trial
(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc’s antibody cocktail was effective at preventing mild or moderate Covid-19 infections from worsening in a study that bolsters the drugmaker’s ambitions for the product.
The cocktail halved the risk of severe illness or death compared with a placebo in 822 participants who had been symptomatic for a week or less and weren’t hospitalized, Astra said in a statement Monday.
The results are another boon for the injected product after it was also found to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic disease in high-risk people. It adds to optimism about additional weapons to fight the pandemic after Merck & Co. said it will soon have the first Covid pill. Both treatments could offer a simple way to treat patients before they ever reach the hospital.
Astra shares rose less than 1% in London trading. They have gained more than 20% this year.
The results are a relief for the U.K. drugmaker after the cocktail failed to prevent symptomatic disease in people explicitly exposed to the virus in an initial trial in June. Astra said last week that it had applied for emergency-use authorization in the U.S. The U.K. has started an expedited review of the drug, and the company plans to file for authorization in the European Union shortly, Astra executives said at a press briefing Monday.
Antibody treatments are a key tool in the fight against Covid. They can be used to supplement vaccines for people who haven’t mounted a strong response to the shots or to protect those who couldn’t be immunized. Cancer sufferers or people with weakened immune systems could be eligible for such cocktails.
“With continued cases of serious Covid-19 infections across the globe, there is a significant need for new therapies like AZD7442 that can be used to protect vulnerable populations,” said Hugh Montgomery, the principal investigator on the trial and professor of intensive-care medicine at University College London.
The data on 822 people showed 18 cases of Covid worsening in the medicated group, compared with 37 in the placebo arm. The cocktail was generally well tolerated.
The trial took place in countries including the U.K., Brazil, the U.S. and Germany, and Astra plans to conduct a pediatric study for the drug starting early next year, executives told reporters. Other trials looking at whether the treatment can help hospitalized patients are ongoing, as well as a study comparing intravenous and intramuscular administration of the cocktail.
Astra confirmed it will have doses ready if and when it receives authorization, but declined to comment further on the supplies.
In a separate analysis of patients who received treatment within five days of getting symptoms, the cocktail reduced the risk of the disease becoming more severe by 67%. The majority of patients -- 90% -- were from populations at high risk of progression to severe illness. Many had other diseases such as diabetes and cancer.
As many as 2% of vaccinated individuals are still vulnerable to Covid-19 and more than 40% of people hospitalized with breakthrough infections post-vaccination are immunocompromised, according to Astra.
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