Another pharmaceutical company halted testing of an experimental COVID-19 drug treatment because of safety concerns.
U.S.-based Eli Lilly and Company announced Tuesday that the clinical trial of its coronavirus antiviral drug had been paused by independent monitors “out of an abundance of caution,” but did not go into details.
The drug, which Eli Lilly is developing with Canadian-based biotech firm AbCellera, is part of a class of treatments known as monoclonal antibodies, which are made to act as immune cells that scientists hope can fight off the virus. The antibody therapy was similar to one given to U.S. President Donald Trump after he tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month.
The study, which launched in August, aimed to enroll 10,000 hospitalized coronavirus patients in the United States.
Eli Lilly applied to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization for the drug to be used for mild to moderate cases of COVID-19 infections based on preliminary results from a different clinical trial.
A day before the pause, U.S. drug maker Johnson & Johnson halted its late-stage clinical trials of its experimental vaccine after a participant was diagnosed with an unexplained illness.
Johnson & Johnson had just launched a wide scale test of its single-dose vaccine involving 60,000 volunteers across more than 200 locations in the United States and internationally, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and South Africa.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial is the second to be put on hold after a volunteer became ill after receiving the vaccine. U.S.-based drugmaker AstraZeneca halted its late-stage trial of a vaccine developed with the University of Oxford early last month after a volunteer in Britain was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and is often sparked by viral infections.
The late-stage testing of that vaccine has resumed in Britain, Brazil, India and South Africa, but remains on hold in the United States.
The World Bank said Tuesday that it has approved a $12 billion package for developing countries to purchase and distribute COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments.
Meanwhile, both The New York Times and The Washington Post say the Trump administration has embraced the strategy of herd immunity as the means of stopping the COVID-19 pandemic.
Herd immunity happens when a population is protected from a virus because a threshold immunity has been reached in that society.
The newspapers say anonymous senior administration officials told reporters Monday they are embracing a strategy to allow the spread of the coronavirus among young healthy people while protecting the elderly and other vulnerable populations in order to keep the nation’s economy up and running.
The officials cited a petition titled “The Great Barrington Declaration” posted online on October 4, that argues against lockdowns and ignores current scientific guidance on blunting the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks and engaging in social distancing.
The petition says the strategy, called “Focused Protection,” is “the most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity.” The declaration’s lead authors include Dr. Scott Atlas, a neurologist who has emerged as one of President Trump’s main advisors on the pandemic.
The Trump administration’s embrace of herd immunity runs counter to a stance by the World Health Organization, which calls the strategy unethical.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, told reporters Monday in Geneva that health officials should only try to achieve immunity through vaccination, not through exposing people to the virus.
Health authorities in the Netherlands said Tuesday that an 89-year-old woman is the first known case of someone who died after contracting COVID-19 for a second time. Researchers acknowledge the woman’s immune system had been weakened from the treatment she received from a rare form of bone marrow cancer.
The woman’s death coincides with a new study that suggests that a person infected with COVID-19 is still vulnerable to the disease. A report published Monday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases medical journal revealed a 25-year-old man in (the western U.S. state of) Nevada first tested positive with COVID-19 back in April, then a second time in June with more severe symptoms that led to him being placed on oxygen.
Researchers say the man was infected with two distinct strains of the novel coronavirus, but could not be sure why the second infection was worse. He may have been exposed to a higher dose of the virus the second time, or the later version was more virulent than the first.
Voice of America – English