At the moment, there are no drugs to treat Covid-19 specifically, but one anti-viral medication, Remdesivir, has been used experimentally in Switzerland and elsewhere on infected patients, with varying results.
However, several new treatments are being developed and could reach the Swiss market in 2021.
Swiss pharmaceuticals giant Roche has announced on Thursday that is it collaborating with an American company, Atea Pharmaceuticals, on the development of a drug, called AT-527, to treat coronavirus patients who have not been hospitalised.
“If successful, AT-527 could help treat patients early, reduce the progression of the infection, and contribute to decreasing the overall burden on health systems”, the two companies said in a joint statement.
Other treatments are being developed as well.
In August, Swiss authorities signed a ‘reservation agreement’ for the delivery of 200,000 doses of a possible new coronavirus medication.
If the yet-unnamed drug successfully passes clinical trials and is approved for the market, Switzerland will receive priority access, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said.
The government also secured the right to be supplied with up to 3 million further doses.
Manufactured by a Swiss company, Molecular Partners, a spin-off of the University of Zurich, the new drug acts as an ‘immunotherapeutic agent’.
This means the treatment is comparable to mixtures of antibody therapies that are used to neutralise the virus.
“The drug also could, in certain cases, be administered on a preventive basis — for example for exposed hospital staff or other risk groups,” authorities said.
Also in August, Roche has joined forces with an American biotechnology company, Regeneron, to develop, manufacture and distribute the investigational combination of two antiviral antibodies.
The product “could provide a much-needed treatment option for people already experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, and also has the potential to prevent infection in people exposed to the virus”, Roche said in a statement.
What about the vaccine?
In August, Switzerland secured early access to Covid-19 vaccine which is now being developed by the American pharmaceutical company Moderna — the only known strategy so far to build the immunity to the disease.
Swiss authorities pre-ordered 4.5 million doses. But as two doses of the vaccine will be needed, this means that 2.25 million people, about a fourth of the country’s population, can be vaccinated against Covid-19.
On October 16th, the Swiss government has also concluded an agreement with a UK pharmaceuticals company AstraZeneca and the Swedish government for the delivery of up to 5.3 million doses of their vaccine.
Switzerland is also participating in the COVAX programme to secure secure vaccines for 20 percent of its population.
“The federal government is trying to conclude reservation agreements with various manufacturers whose vaccine projects are already at a well advanced stage and exhibiting promising results,” FOPH said.
However, “it remains unclear which vaccines will ultimately be authorised and made available to the Swiss population. Talks are therefore being held with various vaccine producers, with agreements being concluded in order to increase the chances of gaining access to a vaccine”.
FOPH added that before any vaccine is made available, it will be properly tested for safety and efficacy, and be approved by Swissmedic, the surveillance authority for all medicines and medical devices sold in Switzerland.