AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 antibody treatment failed to meet its main goals in its latest trial, while showing that it could prevent people exposed to the virus from developing the disease if given early enough.
The phase 3 trial of AZD7442 treatment found that it was not significantly more effective than placebo. Out of 1,121 participants who had been in contact with an infected person, 23 under the drug developed symptomatic Covid-19, compared with 17 under placebo.
The treatment is separate from the company’s vaccines, which are used around the world to protect against the coronavirus.
AstraZeneca has agreed to provide up to 700,000 doses of the antibody treatment to the US government, worth up to $ 726 million.
However, AZD7442’s results were more encouraging when the drug was given to patients who had not yet tested positive for the virus, reducing the risk of developing the disease by 73%.
“Although this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic disease, we are encouraged by the protection seen in PCR-negative participants after treatment with AZD7442,” said Mene Pangalos, executive vice president of biopharmaceutical research and development at AstraZeneca.
The treatment is the subject of several late stage trials with a total of 9,000 participants. Myron Levin, a professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and the trial’s lead investigator, said another trial called Provent would yield more data on this patient population.
“Although the Covid-19 vaccination efforts have been successful, there is still a significant need for prevention and treatment options for certain populations, including those who cannot be vaccinated or those who may have an inadequate response to vaccination, ”said the professor.
Latest coronavirus news
Follow FT’s live coverage and analysis of the global pandemic and the rapidly evolving economic crisis here.
Antibody treatments from companies such as Regeneron and Eli Lilly have been used to boost the immune response of patients with Covid-19. Former US President Donald Trump was among the beneficiaries of the Regeneron treatment.
But they could also be given prophylactically to people at risk of developing the disease. In a trial of residents and staff of long-term care facilities, Eli Lilly’s bamlanivimab antibody reduced the risk of infection by 80% in participants who tested negative.
The search for drugs to treat Covid-19 has been less successful than the rapid development of many vaccines against the disease, with doubts about how antiviral remdesivir works.
Antibody treatments have been a positive, but they are difficult to give early enough in the illness to tell the difference. With widespread immunization in the West, the demand for these treatments is likely to decline – and they are often too expensive for developing countries.