Covid-19: vaccination is progressing, but where is the search for treatments?

Covid-19: vaccination is progressing, but where is the search for treatments?
Covid-19: vaccination is progressing, but where is the search for treatments?

RESEARCH – The European Union has just placed an order for 220,000 doses of a treatment that claims to be promising. For their part, Israeli scientists may have identified three already existing drugs effective against the disease. We take stock of the latest data in this area.

ALG – 2021-07-30T14: 18: 07.572 + 02: 00

Since the start of the campaign at the end of 2020, the vaccination against Covid-19 intended to achieve the famous collective immunity has largely focused attention. To the point perhaps of making people forget that scientists around the world continue to intensely seek treatments to reduce severe forms of the virus. If no miracle cure has been discovered for the time being, some drugs claim to be promising when others have already been proven for certain categories of patients, or to limit certain complications.

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Covid-19: the challenge of vaccination

This Wednesday, the European Union has also placed an order for 220,000 doses for an experimental treatment. What is it based on? Who are those who are also sources of hope? We take stock.

GSK’s Sotrovimab

The EU has just placed an order with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). According to the European Commission, the investigational drug in question, Sotrovimab works thanks to “monoclonal antibodies sotrovimab “. “Monoclonal antibodies are proteins designed in the laboratory that mimic the way the immune system fights against the coronavirus”, can we still read on the website of the Commission, which specifies that “they attach themselves to the spike proteins and thus prevent the virus from accessing human cells.”

While the European Union has not yet given the green light for this treatment, Sotrovimab is currently under continuous evaluation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). It is intended to be administered to patients with mild symptoms of Covid-19 and who do not need to be placed on oxygen while being exposed to a high risk of developing a severe form of the disease. As a result, since Wednesday, each Member State can obtain Sotrovimab according to its needs, after having received an emergency use authorization or a (conditional) marketing authorization from the European Medicines Agency. .

Le cocktail REGEN-COV de Regeneron

In France, treatment with monoclonal antibodies has already proven its worth against Covid-19. In mid-March, temporary authorizations had thus been issued for the early treatment of adults likely to develop serious forms of the disease. More than 1,000 patients had then benefited from it, recalls the National Medicines Safety Agency (ANSM).

One of the two drugs concerned by this first authorization in France for dual therapy based on synthetic antibodies concerned REGN-COV2, a combination of casirivimab and imdevimab from the Roche laboratory (co-developed by Regeneron).

In mid-June, the large British clinical trial Recovery showed that the synthetic antibodies of Regeneron, until then used at the early stage of Covid-19, may also be of interest for a certain type of patients hospitalized in serious condition. This treatment “reduces the risk of mortality when it is given to patients hospitalized with a severe form of Covid and whose body has not naturally developed its own antibodies”, assured in a press release those responsible for this test. These may be people whose immune system is weakened (by other diseases or by treatments, after a transplant for example). They are said to be “immunodéprimées” : their body does not produce enough antibodies to defend itself after infection with Covid or after vaccination.

Le cocktail d’Eli Lilly

The second drug concerned in March by the authorization in France of dual therapy based on synthetic antibodies is that

from the Ely Lilly laboratory, combining bamlanivimab and etesevimab. At the time, the pharmaceutical group had just reported positive results for this treatment which reduced hospitalizations and deaths by 87%, according to trials conducted by the company. At the end of January, the company had already reported that the combination of the two antibodies, bamlanivimab and etesevimab, reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by 70%. The dosage was then 2.8 grams each.

This treatment has been authorized urgently in the United States since the beginning of February (in the strength of 700 mg of bamlanivimab and 1.4 grams of etesevimab), for people at risk, either because of their age or medical history. A first treatment from the same company, this one based only on bamlanivimab, had been authorized in early November in the country.

Le Tocilizumab

In early July, a new study involving nearly 11,000 patients showed that a class of anti-inflammatory drugs, including tocilizumab, effectively reduces the risk of death in hospitalized Covid-19 patients. The World Health Organization (WHO) has since recommended their use, at the same time as corticosteroids, in patients with severe cases of Covid-19, she announced.

Intravenous tocilizumab had shown mixed results in various smaller clinical trials, but this study, published in the scientific journal Jama, compiles the results of 27 clinical trials in 28 countries. It is the first to cover such a large number of people.

Read also

  • 5 questions about monoclonal antibodies, the anti-Covid treatment that interests the government
  • Authorized but controversial, has the monoclonal antibody bamlanivimab proven to be effective?

Note that the latter also related to monoclonal antibodies sarilumab, a drug developed by the French Sanofi originally used against rheumatoid arthritis like tocilizumab, manufactured by Roche.


Among patients hospitalized in this meta-analysis, administering one of these two drugs at the same time as corticosteroids reduced the risk of death by 17%, compared to using corticosteroids alone. As a reminder, corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, which themselves also have an anti-inflammatory effect, were the first treatment likely to reduce mortality due to Covid-19.

Since September in fact, the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency have recommended the administration of dexamethasone based on the conclusions of the large British Recovery study. More broadly, the WHO recommends “The systematic use of corticosteroids in patients with a severe or critical form”. Like corticosteroids, anticoagulants are used in the most severely affected patients, the goal being to prevent the formation of blood clots, one of the severe complications of Covid-19.

3 other drugs tested in Israel found to be very effective

A few days ago, Israeli scientists for their part assured that they had identified three formulas capable of effectively fighting Covid-19 after examining more than 3,000 different drugs. Their work, carried out in a laboratory in Jerusalem and relayed by The Times of Israel reveals a success rate of “almost 100%” for each of these already existing treatments. It is on the one hand Darapladib, a drug for the treatment of atherosclerosis, on the other hand Flumatinib, a treatment against cancer and finally a drug against HIV, whose name does not have been unveiled.

To confirm these promising early trials and determine whether these drugs are as effective against variants, starting with Delta, clinical trials now need to be performed.

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