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Roche and Gilead Sciences Testing Two-Drug Covid-19 Combo

Roche and Gilead Sciences are kicking off a late-stage trial of a two-drug combination they hope will prove effective in treating Covid-19.

Drug and pharmaceutical giants Roche Holdings and Gilead Sciences  (GILD) - Get Report will kick off a late-stage trial of a two-drug combination they hope will prove effective in treating patients who contract Covid-19.

The companies said on Thursday they plan to test if mixing Roche's anti-inflammation drug Actemra with Gilead Sciences’ anti-viral treatment remdesivir works better against severe Covid-19 respiratory infections than remdesivir alone.

Actemra and remdesivir are currently being used separately in some settings and clinical trials, with the former used to tackle large-scale immune reactions that sometimes occur in patients stricken with the new coronavirus, and the latter aimed at interfering with viral replication.

The companies plan to begin enrolling as many as 450 patients in the U.S., Canada and Europe in June for the two-drug trial, called Remdacta, which will compare results from patients who receive remdesivir and a placebo.

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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 has said it expects results as soon as June.

Shares of Gilead have been on the rise amid optimism that Covid-19 patients with severe pneumonia-like symptoms responded well to remdesivir, a drug originally developed to treat hepatitis C that was later tested against Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease.

The Food and Drug Administration at the end of April granted Gilead “emergency use authorization” of remdesivir, allowing doctors and hospitals to prescribe and administer the drug to Covid-19 patients.

Other drugmakers experimenting with various treatments for Covid-19 include Sanofi  (SNY) - Get Report, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals  (REGN) - Get Report, AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get Report and GlaxoSmithKline  (GSK) - Get Report.

Shares of Gilead were  up 1.52% at $76.04 in trading on Thursday.