Even as scientists across the world are working tirelessly to come up with a treatment for the COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), a drug used to treat HIV and breast cancer has shown promising results in treating some severe cases of COVID-19 patients, said a report.
The drug, called leronlimab, comes in a vial and is a two-shot per week dose over two weeks.
According to KIRO7, the drug, developed by CytoDyn in Vancouver, Washington, has been cleared by the US FDA to start a phase 2 clinical trial after showing promising results in phase 1 clinical trial.
The HIV drug leronlimab is manufactured by AGC Biologics, a company Bothell. The company produces a special molecule that’s the key ingredient in the drug.
How does the drug work against COVID-19?
For the work, which was carried out at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, the University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine, scientists tested the drug on 10 of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients who were on ventilators or were barely conscious.
Upon receiving the dose, the first patients who were severely ill showed signs of improvement.
“The first four patients who were intubated, two were extubated. One of them self-extubated, and became alert,” Nader Pourhassan, the CEO of CytoDyn, was quoted as saying by KIRO7.
Reportedly, the drug – already used to treat HIV and breast cancer – boosts the immune system and calms the acute inflammation in the lungs that can interfere with normal breathing.
The report said the two patients are now out of the ICU. That’s how experts at CytoDyn figured out the drug could help in the treatment of COVID-19, which has claimed at least 68,125 lives and affected more than 1,244,740 people in 191 countries and territories so far.
Pourhassan said he became very emotional when he heard about the encouraging results. “And cried for about five minutes. It was very, very emotional,” Pourhassan said, adding that the company hopes to save millions of lives.
He said all eight patients who have tried the drug have shown improvement, adding that results were observed in patients who got the shots only three days – although it takes about two weeks for full effects.
“All eight patients we’ve analyzed so far — the first eight patients — saw immunological benefits. The FDA immediately allowed us to have a phase two randomized trial. We are initiating that today,” Pourhassan said on Friday.
He said the results were even seen in COVID patients who got the shots three days for just three days, though it takes about two weeks for full effect.
AGC Biologics, which has been manufacturing the key molecule in the drug for almost four years, said it’s ready to ramp up production, if necessary, to help fight the coronavirus.
“Our urgency level couldn’t be higher. It’s every day, seven days a week,” said Mark Womack, the chief business officer of AGC Biologics.
CytoDyn will now try the drug on less seriously ill patients to determine whether it will block the virus from reaching advanced stages.