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Roche attempt to retool arthritis drug for Covid-19 pneumonia fails trial

Roche attempt to retool arthritis drug for Covid-19 pneumonia fails trial

A late-stage clinical trial of Roche's Actemra/RoActemra drug to treat patients hospitalised with severe Covid-19-related pneumonia failed, the Swiss drugmaker said on Wednesday.

The company had launched the 330-patient trial in March as it joined other pharmaceutical companies seeking to re-purpose existing medicines to fight the epidemic.

The "COVACTA trial did not meet its primary endpoint of improved clinical status in patients with Covid-19 associated pneumonia, or the key secondary endpoint of reduced patient mortality," Roche said.

The news is a blow for Roche, following an Italian study which showed the rheumatoid arthritis drug failed to help patients with early stage Covid-19 pneumonia.

Roche has boosted its production from several hundred thousand doses to more than a million, in hopes that it would be able to quickly supply the medicine should the trials show positive results.

In the COVACTA trial Roche sought to measure Actemra's impact based on how many patients advanced to needing a mechanical ventilator or died from Covid-19, compared to standard treatments.

Although the drug reduced the time it took to discharge patients by an average of eight days, this was not considered significant as the main goal was not met.

So far, Gilead Science's remdesivir been shown by studies to help speed up recovery times for Covid-19 patients, while the older generic steroid dexamethasone in a UK-led trial reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection.