On Thursday, the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca announced that its antibody preparation offers more than 80 percent protection against severe COVID-19 for six months. The drug AZD7442, or Evusheld, can be used for both prevention and treatment and is effective in both cases.
AstraZeneca conducted two separate studies, the Provent and Tackle study. Both studies included many participants with underlying health risks. The participants will be followed for several months.
One study found that the drug reduces the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 83 percent after six months. The other study found that the drug given by injection reduces the risk of serious illness or death by 88 percent. In that case, the patient must receive the drug within three days of the first symptoms.
The results indicate better protection than previously thought, also for the more contagious delta variant. That is a boost for AstraZeneca. Initially, the company’s drug failed to prevent symptomatic disease in infected people.
The Provent study has been launched for people who do not respond well to vaccines, such as people who have had a transplant or cancer patients who receive chemotherapy. Among the participants who received AZD7442, none showed serious symptoms or had no deaths. However, five people who received placebo developed severe symptoms, and two people died.
The Tackle study focused on people who are more likely to become seriously ill after being infected, such as cancer patients or people with diabetes or obesity. Few side effects were reported in both trials.
The results indicate that the drug could provide “vulnerable patients with the long-term protection they urgently need,” Hugh Montgomery, a professor of intensive care at University College London and the study’s principal investigator, told a news conference at which the results were presented.
AstraZeneca does point out that a vaccine is the most important first line of defence against COVID-19. “AZD7442 can especially offer a solution for people who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons,” said Professor Montgomery.
The company already applied for emergency approval in the US for AZD7442 as a preventive agent last month. And in the United Kingdom, the relevant services are still speeding up their evaluation of the product. AstraZeneca also plans to apply for authorization for the antibody preparation from the European Medicines Agency EMA.
AZD7442 consists of two so-called monoclonal antibodies. Unfortunately, these antibodies have been counterfeited in the laboratory, based on substances obtained with the help of recovering corona patients.