Press review


Race for Covid-19 vaccine heats up

PARIS, 24 Apr (APM) - The race to develop a vaccine for Covid-19 entered a new stage this week as clinical trials started in various countries worldwide, reported various French newspapers this week.
A University of Oxford developed vaccine started to be administered to 500 volunteers on Thursday, reported La Croix in a brief Thursday (p.10).
Meanwhile, BioNTech - based in Mainz, Germany - has joined forces with Pfizer to start testing its own vaccine stating that this is "only the fifth human trial" of a coronavirus virus vaccine worldwide according to Germany's health authorities, reported Le Parisien, also in a brief on Thursday (p.10).
The very first human trial started on 16 March in the U.S. led by biotech Moderna in a Phase I involving three patient cohorts. If results are positive, Moderna hopes to launch Phase II testing before the summer, reported Le Monde on Tuesday p.4.
According to Le Monde "there are at least 116 'candidate' vaccines" including ones from Sanofi and the French research Pasteur Institute. Le Parisien reported on Monday (p.10) that the institute is planning to start clinical trials this summer.
However, none of them are due on the market before mid 2021 and even that will require an accelerated vaccine calendar.
U.S.-based Clarivate Analytics believes that this 12-18-month period is overly optimistic, quoted in Les Echos on Tuesday (p.19) as saying that it will be five years before today's most advanced vaccines - Moderna's and another by Inovio - are fully authorised, if they do not encounter any issues on the way.
There are various issues increasing the time it takes to get a vaccine to market in addition to the safety aspect which require the vaccine be tested numerous times to ensure it is safe to use. Money is also a significant one, highlighted Le Parisien on Monday (p.10). Afterall, "there are seven billion [people] in the world, and almost all of them have to be vaccinated".
But regulation is also an issue, Les Echos noted. Before a pharma company can even start proving their vaccine is effective, they must be sure they can produce it in sufficient quantities.

Gilead's remdesivir fails Covid-19 trial

Gilead's remdesivir has failed to improve the state of Covid-19 patients, Le Parisien reports in a brief on Friday (p.13).
This is according to the results of a Chinese trial published on Thursday in the Financial Times.
The paper notes that there are numerous ongoing trials evaluating remdesivir and other drugs, but that this announcement is a hard blow for the scientific community.

French prescribing review Prescrire against chloroquine

France's independent prescribing review Prescrire has come out against chloroquine as a coronavirus treatment, reported Le Parisien on Tuesday (p.11).
Prescrire has analysed several trials involving the much-vaunted drug including one from China and one involving four hospitals in the Parisian region of Ile-de-France and stated that results do not show any statistically significant improvement in patients who received chloroquine.
Moreover, patients who received the drug had a statistically significant likelihood - 30% - of developing adverse events. In one trial, 9.5% of patients stopped taking chloroquine for this reason.
These results led to Prescrire to declare that as of 15 April, there is no known treatment for coronavirus.
Numerous trials - including DISCOVERY - are still ongoing to evaluate whether chloroquine is a suitable treatment for coronavirus.

French state to supply hospitals with key ICU drugs

The French state is to become the sole supplier of five key intensive care unit (ICU) drugs to hospitals as of Monday 27 April, reported L'Humanité (in a brief, p.11) on Wednesday and La Croix on Friday (p.10) (APMHE 67045).
The five drugs include two hypnotics and three muscle relaxant curares - all essential for the treatment of ICU patients and in palliative care.
Friday is the last day hospitals can order drugs from pharma companies themselves. From Monday, the state will oversee the distribution of these drugs.
The state has responded to warnings raised by hospitals that a shortage or even stocks running out of key ICU drugs could develop in France at the beginning of May, as the consumption of hypnotics and curares is significantly higher than the number produced and imported, as Le Figaro reported on Wednesday (p.6).
The explosion of Covid-19 patients in ICUs across the country is behind these shortages, with the use of one curare increasing nine-fold in March compared to the same month last year.
However, it is not just the number of patients that is causing stocks to drop - but the fact that patients themselves are often overweight and therefore require a larger drug dose and that their ICU stay is considerably longer than usual.
Companies have increased production to try and keep up, with head of French pharma body Leem Frédéric Collet quoted in Le Figaro as stating that some had increased production 40-fold.
But many are blaming the delocalisation of drug manufacturing to Asian countries such as China and India for the shortages and are calling for drug production to be moved back to Europe.

Sanofi wants to support national solidarity

Sanofi has announced it wants to invest €100 million in national solidarity via drug donations to hospitals and old people's homes and by investing in start-ups specialising in coronavirus testing, reported both L’Humanité (p.14) and Le Parisien (p.8) on Tuesday.
Head of Sanofi France Olivier Bogillot is quoted in Le Parisien as saying it is the company's responsibility to give resources and expertise.



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