Roche’s rheumatoid arthritis blockbuster Actemra (tocilizumab) showed no benefit for hospitalized COVID-19 patients in a phase 3 trial, but the company still has high hopes for the drug as a potential treatment for COVID-19 infections.
The phase 3 study assessed the drug for treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with severe pneumonia.
While there was a shorter time to discharge in patients taking Actemra compared to placebo, the improvement was not considered statistically significant, and the mortality rate by week four was nearly identical between the two groups.
But Roche’s Chief Medical Officer, Levi Garraway, said the company will continue to pursue “a more complete understanding” of Actemra as a possible treatment for COVID-19.
The company is conducting two other phase 3 trials in COVID-19 patients, one with Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir for patients with severe COVID-19, the other to assess the drug for treatment of minority populations (DID, May 29).
Roche is also conducting a separate phase 2 study evaluating two different doses of the drug in hospitalized adults with moderate to severe COVID-19, and other independent trials of the drug are ongoing.
A small study of Actemra in early COVID-19 patients in Italy showed no improvement or increased survival. It was stopped early in June when doubts were raised about the drug’s effectiveness (DID, June 19). — Jordan Williams