Regeneron, Sanofi to test arthritis drug as coronavirus treatment

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi SA are exploring whether their rheumatoid arthritis drug, sarilumab (Kevzara—Sanofi), could treat symptoms of novel coronavirus infection.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi SA are exploring whether their rheumatoid arthritis drug, sarilumab (Kevzara—Sanofi), could treat symptoms of novel coronavirus infection. The initiative was prompted in part by reports that a similar-acting drug, tocilizumab (Actemra—Roche Holding AG), had helped a small group of patients with severe or critical COVID-19 disease recover. Both Actemra and Kevzara block proteins called interleukin-6 (IL-6) that trigger the body's immune and inflammatory response, which normally helps fight infections. In some novel coronavirus patients, the immune response may be accelerating and damaging the lungs even after significantly diminishing the amount of virus in the body. Blocking IL-6 may put the brakes on the immune system and keep the body from attacking itself. Timothy Sheahan, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, noted that one concern with deploying drugs that dampen the immune system is that patients could become more prone to infection. Separately, Regeneron is developing new antibody drugs to kill the coronavirus itself and hopes to have the drugs ready to study in humans this summer.