AstraZeneca releases new data for promising anti-Covid drug

AstraZeneca releases new data for promising anti-Covid drug
Credit: Belga

British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca published promising new data on 8 June following the conclusion of the third stage of tests of its new anti-Covid drug Evusheld.

The drug is a treatment intended to treat Covid-19 infection in adolescents and adults, and contains two active substances, monoclonal antibodies tixagevimab and cligavimab.

The medicine works by injecting specialised antibodies, which are designed to recognise and attach themselves to antigens, into the body. The two active substances then tie themselves to the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19 infection, at two separate places. When attached to the protein, the virus is unable to multiply and causes Covid-19 infection.

In a previous study of over 5,000 people, Evusheld reduced the risk of Covid-19 infection by 77%, with lasting protection against the virus which can provide coverage for as long as six months. Adults, who had never previously been infected with the virus and who had not received a vaccine, received either the new drug or a placebo.

Of those given the drug, 0.2% (8 out of 3,441 cases) still had a breakthrough Covid infection, compared to 1% (17 out of 1,731) who received the placebo. These studies, however, were done before the emergence of the new, more infectious, Omicron variant of the virus.

On the back of new data published in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal, manufacturer AstraZeneca stated that the results demonstrate that the drug provides “statistically significant protection against progression to severe COVID-19 or death from any cause, compared to the use of a placebo.”

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Mene Pangalos, Executive Vice President of BioPharmaceuticals R&D for AstraZeneca, said that it seemed increasingly likely that the medicine will prove effective in preventing severe infection and suppressing severe illness.

“These results…add to the growing evidence supporting the use of Evusheld to help patients who most need additional protection against COVID-19,” the pharmacist said. Despite the widespread use of vaccines against Covid-19 infection, there are still those who remain particularly susceptible to infection with the virus.

“Many individuals such as older adults, individuals with co-morbidities and those who are immunocompromised, remain at risk for poor outcomes from severe COVID-19,” explained Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at the University College of London.

The latest round of results suggests that a single 600-milligram intramuscular injection of the medicine can produce a 50% reduction in the likelihood that the virus progresses to a severe or life-threatening infection. When administered within three days of infection, this rises to 88%.

Furthermore, the evidence suggests that the medicine reduced the risk of respiratory failure by 72% and led to few adverse reactions. The results even suggest that the viral medicine is effective against the more infectious Omicron variant, which had not been assessed in previous trials.

The trial was conducted on a total of 903 participants at 95 locations in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and Japan.

Around 13% of the participants were over 65 years old and 90% had preexisting conditions which put them at higher risk of becoming seriously ill, such as cancer, diabetes, obesity, lung disease, cardiovascular disease, or immunosuppression.

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