Eli Lilly Stops Antibody Trial In Hospitalized Covid-19 Patients

How do we understand the decision of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to halt the Eli Lilly antibody treatment trial? Is it a sign that monoclonal antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, are ineffective?

The Lilly trial combined two drugs designed to interfere with SARS-CoV-2 infection: remdesivir, a drug that is intended to inhibit the viral RNA polymerase, and the Lilly drug, a monoclonal antibody that is meant to prevent the spread of the virus within an infected person. The trial participants were all hospitalized volunteers with serious complications from Covid-19. The intent of the trial was to speed up recovery and prevent further progression of the disease. I do not have information regarding the exact endpoints and whether or not they include prevention of progression, the need for intensive care, and death.

Why two drugs? The presumptive benefits of remdesivir make it a drug of choice for most patients with Covid-19. A recent WHO study of remdesivir conducted in many countries found that remdesivir had no effect on hospitalized patients—neither with respect to progression nor more serious disease and death. This finding did not surprise me, as the effects of the drug even at their best are described as weak to marginal. Nonetheless, most volunteers in a study of a new drug would rather receive remdesivir along with the new drug.

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Originally published on Forbes (October 28, 2020)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.