Alexander Hardy, chief executive at Roche's Genentech unit, said the company is supplying its arthritis drug Actemra to doctors treating patients with COVID-19, as reported in Morningstar.
"What we're really missing is a clear level of evidence to really inform what the correct role of Actemra is in treating the disease in its most serious stage," Hardy remarked.
Roche has said it would start testing Actemra to see if it works against SARS-CoV-2, while it has also provided 10,000 vials of the IL-6 inhibitor to the US Strategic National Stockpile.
According to Hardy, the push to evaluate and supply Actemra follows recent reports from China that point to the potential benefit of the drug, which had been used on roughly 400 patients in China and more in Italy, while anecdotal evidence from New York also supports its use.
Researchers believe that an overreaction of the immune system might be behind the most severe damage to COVID-19 patients and that therapies that dampen this response could potential ease some of the more serious symptoms.
Sanofi and partner Regeneron Pharmaceuticals are testing another rheumatoid arthritis therapy, Kevzara, to see if it is effective against the novel coronavirus.
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