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US, French firms start drug trial in severe COVID-19 cases

French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi and American drugmaker Regeneron said Monday they have started clinical trials for a new drug in patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19 infections.

In a statement they said phase 2 and 3 trials were under way for Kevzara, an immunosuppressor.

Regeneron will trial in the United States, while Sanofi plans trials initially in Italy, particularly hard hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Kevzara, the brand name for sarilumab, an antibody that blocks the ability of some viruses to latch on to humane immune cells, has been in development since 2017.

Specifically it inhibits the immune receptor that plays a key role in lung inflammation, something severe COVID-19 patients suffer from.

Around 400 patients will take part in the studies, which will evaluated the effect of Kevzara on fever and oxygenation levels of patients.

It will also look at how the drug works over the long term in reducing mortality rates, and potentially how it can reduce the need for respiratory apparatus in hospital.

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