Regeneron and Sanofi Drug Shows Promise Treating Sickest Coronavirus Patients

A drug co-produced by Regeneron and Sanofi used to treat rheumatoid arthritis has shown potential to treat patients most stricken with Covid-19.

A drug co-produced by Regeneron  (REGN) - Get Report and Sanofi  (SNY) - Get Report used to treat rheumatoid arthritis has shown potential to treat patients most stricken with Covid-19, the respiratory disease that afflicts the most affected patients of the coronavirus pandemic.

The companies on Monday announced the preliminary results from the Phase 2 portion of an ongoing trial evaluating Kevzara (sarilumab), a so-called interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor antibody that helps reduce inflammation and offset a lack of oxygen getting to the lungs, in hospitalized patients with “severe” or “critical” respiratory illness caused by Covid-19.

The two companies began clinical trials of the drug in Covid-19 patients last month after a small study from China suggested a benefit from a Roche drug, Actemra, inhibiting the same pathway.

The randomized Phase 2 portion of the trial compared higher and lower doses of Kevzara administered to a sampling of 457 hospitalized patients who were categorized as having either “severe” illness (28% of patients), “critical” illness (49% of patients) or “multi-system organ dysfunction” (23% of patients).

Early results showed that Kevzara rapidly lowered C-reactive protein (CRP), a key marker of inflammation, in the sickest patients, but provided no benefit to patients with less-advanced symptoms requiring low levels of oxygen supplementation and who weren’t on ventilators, the companies said in a statement. 

As a result, the companies are proceeding with a larger trial only in critical patients, testing the higher Kevzara dose against a placebo. Results from that trial are expected by June.

"As we quickly follow the science to better understand this disease and explore how to best treat patients, these initial results from the randomized clinical trial setting provide physicians much needed insights and information regarding the potential of Kevzara for patients with Covid-19 treatment," said Sanofi Global Head of Research John Reed. 

Shares of Regeneron were down 0.75% at $561.99 in trading on Monday.