Coronavirus updates: China to test Roche arthritis drug; Takeda developing new antiviral

March 4, 2020

Health authorities in China have approved the use of a Roche drug to treat coronavirus patients in serious condition.

The medication, Actemra, is an interleukin-6 receptor antagonist that is used to treat moderate to severe acute rheumatoid arthritis. Now, the medication can be given to patients in China with severe lung damage or high levels of interleukin 6, which can be related to inflammation  caused by immunological diseases.

Researchers in China are also currently testing Actemra on 188 coronavirus patients in a three-month trial that started Feb. 10. 

Japan-based Takeda Pharmaceuticals also announced this week that it is working to develop a new antiviral medication to treat coronavirus. The company said it is using blood samples from coronavirus patients who have survived the infection to develop a hyperimmune globulin-based drug containing antibodies that target the virus’ specific pathogen.

Takeda said it is coordinating with health regulators around the world to collect plasma donations, and has about 40 employees working on the drug’s development.

Several other companies, including AbbVie and Gilead, have sent antivirals to China to be tested on coronavirus patients. Pfizer also stated that it is reviewing its antiviral compounds to find treatments that may be viable against COVID-19.