How can COVID-19 therapies help us on the road to recovery?
The pharmaceutical industry is constantly working on developing new tools to fight COVID-19. There are currently about 3,000 clinical trials exploring therapies for treating the virus and about 61 therapeutic candidates such as antivirals, monoclonal antibodies, antihypertensives, anti-inflammatories, immunomodulators, antithrombotic and steroids in the late stages of development.
Furthermore, the European therapeutic strategy against COVID-19 is currently underway, which aims to accelerate the development, delivery and continuous availability of therapies to support the fight against the virus worldwide.
To understand this strategy and highlight the importance of therapeutics mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on people, health systems and society, on June 29th , EFPIA organized the webinar “How can COVID-19 treatments help us on the road to recovery?”
The event included the participation Nathalie Moll, CEO of EFPIA; Jenny Camaradou, EUPATI Patient Expert; Pierre Delsaux, Deputy Director General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission; Massimiliano Di Domenico, Vice President of Communications, Government Affairs and Market Access in Europe, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Michel Goldman, President of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation in the health sector (Free University of Bruxelles, Belgium).
Why is the therapeutic strategy important?
In principle, it is essential to bear in mind that at present, the entire population is not vaccinated yet, and it will take time for it to be. In addition, some people have doubts about vaccination – an aspect that could prevent the disease disappearing completely.
In this sense, Pierre Delsaux pointed out that, “we must have a greater diversity of responses against COVID-19. Vaccines are one answer, therapeutics another. It is important to combine all these tools in the effort to ensure that we really protect our population.”
Furthermore, the new strains of COVID-19 that have appeared must be taken into account, since, as Nathalie Moll commented, “vaccines are wonderful, but viruses mutate and there will always be a margin of error. The virus is here to stay and we must go one step ahead of it with treatments that benefit patients.”
Hence, therapies will continue to strengthen the work performed by vaccines, which is why “it is time to invest in more treatments, for people who have not yet been vaccinated, and even for those who are and do not respond correctly to vaccines”, highlighted Michel Goldman.
What criteria should the therapeutic strategy prioritize?
Like many efforts that are being carried out in the framework of the pandemic, the therapeutic strategy seeks to reach the entire population worldwide, taking into account that – as the president of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Innovation in the health sector pointed out, “this it is an European commission with a global focus, because let us remember that no one is safe until everyone is safe”.
Regarding the criteria for prioritizing treatments, Goldman added that scientific criteria will be taken into account and it will ensure that the products they try to promote are accessible and affordable for both patients and governments.
In this regard, the effort should be focused on the therapies reaching patients. The Deputy Director General for Health and Food Safety of the European Commission said: “we want to ensure that the therapies being identified as promising, reach out to patients. We will find the appropriate mechanism to do so”.
Transversally, trust in the strategy is fundamental; it is necessary to obtain legitimacy and represent the real concerns of the patient, as highlighted by Jenny Camaradou, emphasizing that “perhaps a different approach is needed to generate trust, without forgetting vulnerable people and marginal communities”.
On the other hand, Massimiliano Di Domenico commented on another fundamental criterion that has been a lesson from the development of vaccines: joint work, because “working together facilitates the creation of assets in less time”.
The industry’s next step is to find more treatments for COVID-19 that mitigate the effects of the virus, free up the capacity of hospitals and save lives. Just as there was a race for vaccine development a few months ago, there is currently one to develop therapies.
Because, although vaccination programs continue to expand around the world, therapeutics has a key role in saving lives, freeing up capacity in intensive care units, and treating patients living with COVID-19.
It is recognized that vaccines are essential to advance this pandemic; however, as Massimiliano Di Domenico pointed out, “we need both vaccines and therapeutics and any other tool that we can use to face this pandemic and save the lives of patients.”
Generally speaking, “the road is difficult, we have obstacles, but let’s be optimistic: we can do it if we work together”, as Pierre Delsaux concluded.
* The information contained in this document is a summary of the webinar that portraits the perspective of the experts and does not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts or opinions of FIFARMA or its members. Any content provided by our experts are of their opinion and are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.