AstraZeneca Covid drug cuts risk of severe disease or death by 50%, says company


AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 antibody cocktail cuts the risk of severe disease or death in patients by half, the company said on Monday.

The drug, AZD7442, had previously shown a significant effect in preventing any symptom of coronavirus.

But trials show a 600mg dose of the drug reduced the risk of developing severe Covid or death from any cause by 50 per cent.

Sir Mene Pangalos, AstraZeneca‘s chief of research and development, said the “important” results added to positive evidence on the drug.

“An early intervention with our antibody can give a significant reduction in progression to severe disease, with continued protection for more than six months,” he added.

In the trial, 90 per cent of participants were at high risk of progression to severe Covid, the drugmaker said. About one in 10 were older than 65.

About 900 patients took part in the trial, with half receiving the drug and half receiving a placebo.

AstraZeneca said last week it had submitted a request for approval by the US Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorisation of the drug, which is administered as an intramuscular injection.

On Monday, it added it would be discussing the new data with health authorities.

This class of drug is different from vaccines, which elicit the production of antibodies to certain parts of the virus. They could prove useful for those at risk of Covid, but who are not recommended to have a vaccine.

The drug is a combination of two long-acting antibodies, derived from B-cells, or cells of the immune system of patients who have recovered from Covid.

It was discovered by Vanderbilt University in the US and licensed to the company in June 2020. The US government is contributing to its development, having also struck a deal for up to 700,000 doses of the treatment for up to $726m.

Approval of the emergency use authorisation in the US could be a big, positive step for the company, as its safe and effective coronavirus vaccine, developed with Oxford university, still has not received a regulatory nod.

A number of antibody cocktails have been shown to reduce the risk of severe disease or death for those who have Covid, but AstraZeneca’s is the first one to show a positive effect both in treatment and prevention in late-stage trials. But antibody cocktails are costly to make and more complex to administer than, for example, pills.

Merck of the US, once a potential contender to license the vaccine that AstraZeneca eventually acquired from Oxford, said earlier this month its molnupiravir pill regimen cut the risk of severe disease or death in Covid-19 by half.