Drugmakers Are Benefiting From Coronavirus Despite No Cure

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Drugmakers that produce antiretroviral drugs used to treat the likes of HIV, SARS and other viruses are benefiting from a surge in demand from patients looking to treat and prevent becoming infected with the novel coronavirus.

AbbVie's  (ABBV) - Get Report antiretroviral drug Kaletra, a combination of medications used to treat HIV patients, has quickly become a sought-after antidote for the novel coronavirus, despite not being proven to have any positive effect at treating it.

The surge in demand comes after the Beijing branch of China’s National Health Commission last month said a combination of lopinavir and Ritonavir, sold as Kaletra, was part of its latest treatment plan for patients infected by the virus, which has killed more than 565 and sickened more than 28,000 worldwide, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Since then, other drugmakers have come forward with potential remedies for the virus, among them Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) - Get Report, Moderna (MRNA) - Get Report, Novavax (NVAX) - Get Report and Gilead Sciences (GILD) - Get Report.

The Wuhan Institute of Virology - based in the central Chinese city at the epicenter of the epidemic – this week applied for a patent in China for the use of Remdesivir, an antiviral therapy made by Gilead used to treat infectious diseases including Ebola and SARS.

Even so, a proven - and approved - treatment is still months or more away, according to experts. While some or all of the current antiretroviral medications approved could assist in combating the coronavirus, there is no actual antidote.

That's not stopping investors from bidding up drugmakers' shares, however. The S&P Pharmaceuticals Select Industry Index is up 3.4% for the year, and up more than 15% over the past 12 months.

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