IL-6-targeting antibodies for COVID-19 depend on recruiting less critically ill patients, GlobalData says

In the race to find treatments for COVID-19, repurposing therapies already approved for other indications to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus is one key strategy. Approved antibodies that target IL-6 is one such approach, but success will depend on intervening early with these therapies, according to reporting from Manasi Vaidya, Pharma Writer for the Investigative News team at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

Vaidya explains: “While, there has been an obvious thrust toward developing antivirals and vaccines to counter the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are also repurposing drugs originally intended for chronic autoimmune disorders or certain infections that target the cytokine storm syndrome (CSS), which is also associated with COVID-19 illness.”

According to GlobalData, three previously approved anti-IL-6 antibodies are under investigation for COVID-19: Sanofi/Regeneron’s Phase II/III Kevzara (sarilumab) trial, Roche’s Phase III COVACTA study of Actemra/RoActemra (tocilizumab) and Eusa’s Sylvant (siltuximab) observational trial.

Vaidya notes: “A Roche spokesperson said the company is doing everything possible to generate and share high-quality results as quickly as possible, while a Regeneron spokesperson said initial results from the Phase II portion of the US Kevzara trial are expected by the end of April.

“Despite the potential for anti-IL-6 antibodies, interviewed experts stressed that they need to be used before hospitalized COVID-19 patients become critically ill or require mechanical ventilation to give the therapies the best chance to be effective mechanistically. Acute lung injury and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)—common consequences of CSS and COVID-19—necessitate interventions like mechanical ventilation to help a patient breathe. The protocols for the Kevzara, Actemra and Sylvant trials indicate the inclusion of patients who may require oxygen through invasive ventilation, which is used in critical cases.

“While there is no single biomarker approved for identifying CSS, it could also be important to use those already associated with the syndrome in the clinical trials to select patients and potentially as secondary efficacy measures.”

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