- A major study found that Regeneron’s antibody treatment can reduce the risk of death for certain people hospitalized with COVID-19, the first definitive evidence a drug aimed at the coronavirus can lower mortality among the sickest patients.
- Regeneron’s combination antibody regimen cut the risk of death by 20% in patients who had not mounted their own immune response to the virus, researchers from the U.K. RECOVERY trial announced Wednesday. In the specified group, 30% of patients given usual care died, compared with 24% of those who received the Regeneron treatment as well as standard drugs.
- The New York-based biotech said it will immediately share the data with regulators and seek expanded use of its treatment for hospitalized patients in the U.S. who haven’t produced their own antibodies against the disease.
The findings represent another boost for Regeneron’s treatment and highlight the critical role the RECOVERY trial is playing in combating the COVID-19 pandemic. The large study has also proven the benefits of the steroid dexamethasone for hospitalized patients and shown that treatments like the controversial pill hydroxychloroquine don’t help.
In this case, researchers studied 9,785 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between September and May. All patients were given standard care and one group was randomly chosen to receive Regeneron’s monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab as well. Researchers also tested whether patients had been able to develop natural disease-fighting antibodies on their own before treatment.
Overall, there was little difference in the death rate between the two groups. But when researchers looked only at patients who had no natural antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the effect of Regeneron’s treatment was significant: fewer patients died or needed to be put on mechanical ventilation and patients went home from the hospital faster.
The results mean that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 can get a test for antibodies and then have the option to get a potentially life-saving treatment, researcher Martin Landray said on Twitter. That’s significant because there are few options for this group of patients.
Regeneron’s treatment already has emergency clearance in the U.S. to treat recently diagnosed patients at high risk for severe disease or hospitalization. It’s similar to an antibody cocktail sold by Eli Lilly.
The new data may give Regeneron another edge over Lilly, though. Researchers have shown the Regeneron therapy retains its potency against major variants that are growing in prevalence in the U.S. and around the world. Lilly’s therapy appears to be less effective against several key strains, and the U.S. government has paused distribution of the treatment in a number of states as a result.
In both cases, however, the overall demand in the world’s largest pharmaceutical market may be ebbing. New cases, hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19 are dropping in the U.S. as more of the population gets vaccinated. There’s now more competition for both companies as well, as the U.S. recently authorized another COVID-19 antibody drug from partners Vir Biotechnology and GlaxoSmithKline.