Antibody treatments against Covid-19: “They can reduce the number of deaths”, according to microbiologist Patrick Berche

Antibody treatments against the coronavirus can “decrease the number of deaths”microbiologist Patrick Berche, member of the Academy of Medicine, told Franceinfo on Thursday 11 November, while the European Medicines Agency approved for the first time the marketing in Europe of two antibody treatments against the coronavirus , a treatment from South Korean Celltrion, regdanvimab, and that of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, Ronapreve, already used in France. Patrick Berche also points out that the pills from Merck and Pfizer laboratories “are extraordinarily effective”. “We are going in the right direction, adds the microbiologist. We have more and more tools to fight serious infections. “

franceinfo: Are these treatments revolutionary and can they be a game-changer?

Patrick Berche: I don’t think they can be a game-changer for the epidemic itself. But I think it can decrease the number of deaths. These are drugs that are already in use. There are around 1,000 or 2,000 patients in France who have received it, only high-risk, severe patients. It must be administered very early in the first days after infection and unfortunately it is intravenous treatments that require hospitalization. There may be allergy-like side effects. But in general, these are dual therapies and you have to watch them really well. This can prevent a lot of intensive care hospitalizations and death.

How to select the patients who will be able to benefit from this very expensive treatment?

What is expected is that it will be people over 80 years old first, who by definition are at very high risk. You need a positive PCR test to enter this therapy. And also patients aged 65 to 80 who have a comorbidity, for example diabetes or hypertension. They are eligible. And there is yet another category of patients who are chronically immunocompromised, those who have very few antibodies. These are already benefiting from this treatment.

What is the difference with the pills from Merck and Pfizer laboratories which will be available at the end of the year?

These are antivirals that are not new. They come from veterinary medicine. They were used to treat coronavirus diarrhea and encephalomyelitis in horses and pigs. We have a certain distance. They are effective as long as they are given very early in the first three days after infection. For the drug molnupiravir from Merck, it prevents people at about 90% risk of having a severe form. The other, that of Pfizer, Paxlovid, which is an anti-protease, which must be given with another historical anti-protease, given during the treatment against AIDS, Ritonavir. These treatments are extraordinarily effective because they can both be given by mouth, so they don’t have to be given in the hospital. They have a very high efficiency. There is a question mark over toxicity. We absolutely need more information on toxicity. It is strongly discouraged or contraindicated in pregnant women. And it is surely not a substitute for vaccination. It’s basically for high-risk patients and they’re extremely expensive treatments, at $ 700 per treatment. We are going in the right direction. We have more and more tools to fight serious infections.

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