Novartis Enlists Bone Marrow Cancer Drug in Fight Against Covid-19

Novartis and Incyte will study the use of their bone marrow cancer drug Jakavi to treat patients suffering severe Covid-19 complications.
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Novartis  (NVS) - Get Report has become the latest pharma giant to attempt to enlist the aid of an existing drug in the battle against the coronavirus, with plans to study the use of a bone marrow cancer drug to treat patients with severe complications from Covid-19.

Novartis has teamed with biotech company and drug development partner Incyte  (INCY) - Get Report to test out their drug Jakavi on patients suffering from a cytokine storm, or immune system overreaction, as a result of Covid-19.

Citing "preclinical and preliminary clinical evidence," Novartis, in a press statement, said Jakavi "could reduce the number of patients requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation."

Novartis joins Roche, Sanofi, and Regeneron, which are all testing out drugs previously approved to treat arthritis to see if they might also work on Covid-19 patients suffering from severe immune system overreactions.

Novartis said it will roll out a Phase III study with Incyte that will test the use of Jakavi in patients with severe Covid-19 pneumonia, comparing the results with other patients receiving the current standard of care.

The drugmaker also plans to roll out a compassionate use program that will give some Covid-19 patients around the world early access to the drug as the Phase III trial gears up.

The announcement comes as New York and other states struggle with a looming ventilator shortage as the number of coronavirus infections and deaths soar.

"The potential that Jakavi could lead to faster recovery times for Covid-19 patients with fewer requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation is encouraging and absolutely merits further investigation," said John Tsai, Novartis' chief medical officer and global drug development chief, in a press statement.

Shares of Novartis edged up 0.45% to $83.97 a share on Friday, while Incyte's stock price rose 1.63% to $78.33 a share.