FOR MEMBERS

EXPLAINED: What is the new Swiss coronavirus drug and how does it work?

EXPLAINED: What is the new Swiss coronavirus drug and how does it work?
Swiss pharma company Roche has good results from its new anti-Covid drug. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
While the focus in Switzerland, and elsewhere, has been primarily on vaccines in the past few months, a new medication may also offer hope in the fight against Covid-19. This is what we know about this drug.

The Swiss government signed a contract with local pharmaceutical company Roche on Tuesday to purchase a “promising drug” to treat coronavirus.

The government bought the medication, which Roche developed jointly with a US biotech firm Regeneron, after recent clinical trials showed that it not only treats but also helps prevent Covid infections. 

What exactly is this drug and how does it work?

In technical terms, it is the combination of the antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab.

To put it simply, “clinical trials show that these treatments provide effective protection against severe forms of the disease”, the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) said in a statement.

For instance, study findings indicate that people who took this drug during clinical trials saw their risk of symptomatic infection reduced by 81 percent, and their symptoms cleared within one week.

READ MORE: Swiss-American antibody drug ‘effective at preventing Covid infection’

What’s the difference between Covid vaccines and this new medication?

Vaccines are given to prevent coronavirus infections and stop the spread and outbreaks of the disease.

The antibody drug, on the other hand, treats patients who were already contaminated, by “neutralising” the virus, FOPH said.

Has this med been approved for use in Switzerland?

No. However, the drugs that have not yet been authorised “can be prescribed in exceptional cases”, FOPH said

It added that Switzerland’s Covid-19 legislation “provides for exceptions to the traditional authorisation procedure, provided that the drug in question prevents and treats COVID-19 based on available data”. 

Even though this medication is still experimental at this point, “the federal government will cover the costs of these treatments until they are reimbursed by compulsory health insurance”, according to FOPH.

For its part, the regulatory body Swissmedic said that “it gave the go-ahead for the distribution. As a result, this medicinal product is available even before the authorisation decision has been taken”.  

How many doses did Switzerland buy and when will they be available?

The initial purchase is 3,000 doses. The government did not reveal how much it spent to buy them.

It did say, however, that they will be available from mid-May “for certain groups of high-risk patients”.

Are there other promising coronavirus treatments on the horizon in Switzerland?

In August 2020, 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”. 

At this point it is still under development.


Member comments

Become a Member to leave a comment.Or login here.