Roche’s arthritis drug Actemra fails to help patients with early-stage COVID-19 pneumonia in Italian study

I the study, Actemra did not reduce severe respiratory symptoms, intensive care visits, or death any better than standard treatments.


Roche’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra failed to help patients with early-stage COVID-19 pneumonia in an Italian study, researchers reported on Wednesday, but the Swiss drugmaker is testing the medicine in another trial against the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

In the study, Actemra did not reduce severe respiratory symptoms, intensive care visits, or death any better than standard treatments.

The trial, which enrolled 126 patients - about one-third of the intended number - was stopped early after an interim analysis found insufficient evidence that the anti-inflammatory medicine was likely to be effective, researchers said in a news release.

It is easy for enthusiasm to turn into cynicism if expectations for a cure is not met as quickly as the public and politicians may hope. Image credit: The conversation/Sebastiao Moreira/EPA

The trial, which enrolled 126 patients was stopped early after an interim analysis found insufficient evidence that the anti-inflammatory medicine was likely to be effective.. Image credit: The conversation/Sebastiao Moreira/EPA

“Although not effective in all patients with COVID-19 pneumonia, it is possible that selected subgroups of patients may have a better response to the drug,” the study’s administrators said in a statement.

Detailed data from the study, which involved 24 medical centres in Italy, will be sent to a scientific journal for publication in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Roche has completed enrollment of its own Actemra study in patients hospitalized with severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19.

That study “will provide robust evidence about the benefit/ risk profile” of Actemra in COVID-19 patients, and the company expects to share the data sometime this summer, a Roche spokesman told Reuters in an email.

Roche in late May also announced plans to study whether combining Actemra with Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral treatment remdesivir works better against severe COVID-19 pneumonia than remdesivir alone.

Remdesivir was able to shorten hospital stays of COVID-19 patients in a recent clinical trial.


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