Pharmaceutical Companies Invest in Antiviral COVID-19 Treatments
COVID-19 Will Not Be Eradicated, at Least for Now
With a sizable portion of the population either unable or unwilling to take the COVID-19 vaccine, the disease likely will not be fully eradicated anytime soon. And while the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of hospitalization and death, COVID-19 can still be contracted and spread through vaccinated individuals. For these reasons, pharmaceutical companies are developing antiviral drugs to treat patients infected with the disease.
Gilead Sciences’ (GILD) remdesivir is currently the only approved drug to treat those already hospitalized for COVID-19 but more drugs may soon be available. Pfizer (PFE), Merck (MRK), and Roche (RHHBY) are in late-stage clinical trials for their antiviral treatments. Results of the companies’ studies of these drugs are expected to be released by the end of 2021.
Drug Companies Take Different Approaches
The drug companies are taking different approaches to developing their antiviral drug treatments. Pfizer is testing its treatment on high- and low-risk patients who have not been hospitalized. Meanwhile, Merck‘s drug is intended to prevent COVID-19 from spreading in households. Merck is partnering with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics on its treatment. At the same time, Roche and partner Atea Pharmaceuticals (AVIR) are testing a treatment for patients in the hospital.
If these medications are found to be effective, they could be very beneficial for keeping people safe from COVID-19. The drugs also have the potential to give drug companies’ balance sheets a big boost. After all, remdesivir sales hit $829 million in the second quarter. Total sales for the drug since the pandemic began are over $5 billion.
Growth Hard to Come By
These antiviral drugs are not guaranteed to be a success for big pharma. They are facing challenges on a number of fronts. For example, patients need to be diagnosed with COVID-19 quickly in order for the drugs to be effective. From an investor standpoint, it will take a lot for drug companies to top last year’s growth given that drugmakers raked in a combined $150 billion in revenue in 2020.
Though vaccines are helping to curb COVID-19 significantly, more treatments will also help reduce hospitalizations and deaths from the virus. It will be interesting to see how these new treatments impact public health and the pharmaceutical industry.
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