Europe secures 55,000 doses of Roche-Regeneron Covid-19 drug hope

BRUSSELS (REUTERS) – The European Union has secured about 55,000 doses of a potential treatment for Covid-19 based on a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies developed by US drugmaker Regeneron and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, an EU spokesman said.

The deal is the bloc’s first contract for this kind of drug.

Having reserved billions of doses of Covid-19 vaccines, the EU is now trying to build a portfolio of drugs that could be effective against the disease, with the aim of identifying 10 promising treatments by the end of the month.

The deal with Roche was reached in April, but contract details were not made public.

An European Commission spokesman said on Thursday (June 3) that the EU had secured about 55,000 doses of the single-dose treatment.

Roche declined to comment on the number of doses, but said the contract covered 37 European countries, including Britain and other non-EU nations. A company spokesman said the deal involved the drug’s infusion version, though it has also been tested as a shot.

The parties declined to disclose the price.

The treatment is the first based on monoclonal antibodies to be secured by the EU.

The only other anti-Covid-19 drug the EU has bought is Gilead’s remdesivir, an antiviral medicine. Last year, the bloc reserved half a million courses after the drug obtained a conditional EU approval.

European countries will buy the Roche-Regeneron drug, which is composed of the monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, only after it is approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or by national drug regulators.

“The EU authorisation is expected between August and October 2021,” an EU document stated, citing Roche estimates.

Roche declined to comment on the estimated timetable.

“We are in discussion with the health authorities and will provide an update later this year,” a spokesman said.

Non-EU Switzerland ordered 3,000 doses on optimism that the drug could also be used as a preventative treatment after studies showed it cut risk of symptomatic infections in households where somebody else had Covid-19.

The EMA said it has not fixed a date for possible approval as the companies must first formally apply for conditional authorisation. The agency has been conducting a rolling review of preliminary data since February.

Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies that the body generates to fight infection.

The drug cocktail reduced hospitalisation or death by 70 per cent in Covid-19 patients and shortened the duration of symptoms by four days, large-scale trial data showed.

Regeneron has enlisted Roche and its South San Francisco biotech facility to make two million doses annually.

The treatment already has emergency US approval for mild to moderate Covid-19 cases. The United States government has ordered 1.5 million doses.

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