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London: AstraZeneca has unveiled a new antibody injection that it says works as both a COVID-19 preventative and treatment, and can be used on patients with severely weakened immune systems.
The monoclonal drug, AZD7442, is derived from antibodies or B cells from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and is fortified with synthetic or manufactured antibodies that last almost three times a long as human ones.
AstraZeneca said the antibody drug reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 83 per cent in one of its trials.Credit:Bloomberg
Because the treatment is antibody-based, it doesn’t involve the risk of inducing an anaphylactic reaction like vaccines can. The company said the treatment could be effective for up to 12 months and has not produced any adverse side effects in clinical trials.
AstraZeneca said it carried out two separate trials called PROVENT and TACKLE.
Results from PROVENT showed the antibody drug reduced the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 83 per cent.
PROVENT involved more than 5000 unvaccinated adults, almost half of them older than 60, and more than 75 per cent had significant comorbidities.
TACKLE involved around 900 adults who had developed a mild to moderate case of COVID-19 within seven days.
AstraZeneca said the drug reduced the risk of severe disease and death by 77 per cent, with just seven cases of severe disease and death arising in the group given the drug compared to the 18 cases that occurred in the group given a placebo.
The full results will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca, said the data showed the drug offered protection for six months and could last for 12 months, but the company needed a further six months of results to confirm this.
Professor Hugh Montgomery, from University College London, said the data was “very, very exciting” for those who could not get vaccinated because their bodies could not mount an antibody response to vaccines.
He said this included his sister, who is undergoing chemotherapy.
“As we’ve lifted our lockdown she’s become a prisoner in her house and I have many friends too, one who for 20 months has been unable to see her children who are at university because she cannot be protected by the vaccine,” he said.
He said the drug would give protection to a huge range of people including organ transplant recipients, cancer patients, those with auto-immune diseases, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis as well as those with incompetent immune systems.
“We are seeing those now hitting hospitals and intensive care units – increasing numbers of people who’ve been double vaccinated and even boosted who are ending up reaching intensive care,” he said.
“Now we have something we can offer you.”
He said it was also good news that the drug did not induce any adverse side effects.
“This is a very safe, highly effective treatment or intervention,” he said.
One drawback was that the drug was more complicated to make than AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which has been used worldwide although suffered serious confidence issues in many countries, including Australia, after it caused fatal blood clots in a very small number of recipients.
AstraZeneca sold its vaccine at cost but company executive Iskra Reic said the antibody drug would be sold at an affordable price subject to approvals.
“We are looking at a commercial pricing strategy, but at the end of the day our premium objective is to ensure broad access,” she said.
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