Roche Partners With Gilead in Covid Trial of Drug Combination

Roche Holding AG andGilead Sciences Inc. are initiating a late-stage trial of a two-drug combination in hopes of creating a new weapon in the battle against Covid-19.

The study will pair Roche’s immune suppressor Actemra along with Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir, the only drug shown so far to fight the coronavirus, in treating patients with severe pneumonia, Roche said in a statement. The results of the combination will be compared to those from patients who receive remdesivir and a placebo.

The trial adds to the blizzard of research into existing medicines against Covid-19. While antivirals seek to stop viruses from replicating, drugs like Actemra — often used to treat rheumatoid arthritis — aim to counter harmful levels of inflammation, sometimes called a cytokine storm, that can be just as damaging as the infection itself.

Inflammation-dampening drugs aren’t without risk, since they limit the body’s ability to fight the infection, Sam Fazeli of Bloomberg Intelligence said in anote.

“This makes it crucial to decipher the best timing of treatment,” he said.

The companies plan to begin enrolling as many as 450 patients in the U.S., Canada and Europe in June for the trial, called Remdacta. Roche said that it’s increasing the size of another trial of Actemra, to 450 patients from 330. That trial started in April and Roche hassaid it expects results as soon as June.

Other drugmakers experimenting with anti-inflammatory treatments for Covid-19 include Sanofi, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., AstraZeneca Plc and GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

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