Regeneron antibody drug reduces death in COVID-19 hospitalized patients, study finds

Initial results from a large study in the U.K. found that an antibody drug reduced death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who faced the highest risk from the virus. 

The study was led by the University of Oxford and part of the larger RECOVERY trial aimed at finding various treatments for people hospitalized with COVID-19. It found that the antibody cocktail from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals cut patient deaths from 30% to 24% among those who hadn’t already developed an immune response against COVID-19. 

Regeneron’s drug provides lab-made versions of antibodies that can help fight the virus. It uses a combination of two monoclonal antibodies — known as REGEN-COV in the U.S. — that bind specifically to two different sites on the coronavirus spike protein, neutralizing the ability of the virus to infect cells.

Smaller studies previously showed that Regeneron’s drug helped reduce the risk of hospitalization and death when given to patients with earlier, milder cases of COVID-19. In April, the company shared clinical trial results that found the treatment offered strong protection against symptomatic infection when given to people living with someone else infected with the virus.

The latest study took place between September 2020 and May 2021 and involved nearly 10,000 patients. It also showed that the drug shortened hospitalization times and reduced the chances of needing a ventilator in the same group of patients studied. 

Among those with natural antibodies against COVID-19, adding the drug had no significant benefit on survival.

Coronavirus - Thu Jan 7, 2021

FILE - Nurses work with COVID-19 patients in the ICU at St George's Hospital in a file image taken on Jan. 7, 2021, in London, England. (Photo by Victoria Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)

Sir Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford and joint chief investigator for the RECOVERY trial, called the study results "very exciting."

"The hope was that by giving a combination of antibodies targeting the SARS-CoV-2 virus we would be able to reduce the worst manifestations of COVID-19. There was, however, great uncertainty about the value of antiviral therapies in late-stage COVID-19 disease," Horby said in a statement. "It is wonderful to learn that even in advanced COVID-19 disease, targeting the virus can reduce mortality in patients who have failed to mount an antibody response of their own."

The preliminary results of was study were set to be published as a pre-print on medRxiv and later be submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal.

Regeneron’s two-antibody combination is currently available for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in the U.S. and Europe. It is not authorized in the U.K.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a formulation of Regeneron’s COVID-19 antibody drug that can be injected, rather than administered by IV infusion.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.