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AstraZeneca's Calquence Shows Promise as Coronavirus Treatment

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Data published in Science Immunology, a peer-reviewed journal, on AstraZeneca’s (AZN - Free Report) BTK inhibitor drug, Calquence (acalabrutinib) showed that it reduced markers of inflammation and improved clinical outcomes in severe COVID-19 patients. The company is conducting global clinical studies to support the claim.

Published data showed that treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with Calquence improved laboratory markers of inflammation and decreased oxygen requirements observed in most patients, over a 10-14 day treatment course. This data has been peer-reviewed but remains to be validated by clinical studies.

Based on these findings, AstraZeneca is conducting a global clinical program — CALAVI, comprising of two phase II studies — to assess the potential of Calquence for treating exaggerated immune response (cytokine storm) associated with COVID-19 infection in severely ill patients.

Please note that Calquence is approved to treat previously treated mantle cell lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia indication (in frontline as well as relapsed/recurrent disease setting).

AstraZeneca’s shares have increased 8% so far this year against the industry’s decrease of 1.3%.

One study of the CALAVI program will evaluate the efficacy and safety of adding Calquence to best supportive care (“BSC”) in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who are not on assisted ventilation and not admitted in the intensive care unit (“ICU”) compared to BSC alone. Another study will evaluate the same regimen in patients who are admitted in the ICU with more severe respiratory complications.

The company hopes that adding Calquence to BSC may reduce the need to place patients on ventilators and also improve their chances of survival.

Several other large pharma companies are also evaluating their marketed drugs to treat respiratory complications associated with COVID-19, which is also the need of the hour.

Lilly (LLY - Free Report) has an agreement with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to evaluate its JAK inhibitor, Olumiant, as a potential treatment for hospitalized patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Roche (RHHBY - Free Report) and Regeneron (REGN - Free Report) /Sanofi have already initiated phase III clinical studies to evaluate their IL-6 receptor antagonists, Actemra and Kevzara, respectively, in severe COVID-19 patients.

Please note that Olumiant, Actemra and Kevzara are approved for rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder. These drugs are also being predicted to reduce overactive inflammatory response in the lungs leading to improvement in coronavirus-infected patients.

Several other large and small pharma/biotech companies are developing treatments or vaccines to fight the pandemic, which has infected nearly seven million people across the globe.

Zacks Rank

AstraZeneca currently carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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