Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Thursday published promising and potentially promising findings on the potential lifesaving effects of COVID-19, the antibiotic known to us as Zepatier. And that’s not all that is promising. The ability to rapidly assess the effects of Zepatier as the drug’s made in Sandoz without misdiagnosis. And yet for all the above, the news is not all that promising.
To quote the esteemed STAT Health: “The results of this and the three other trials come days after Merck announced steep price increases for its recently approved cholesterol-lowering drug Zepatier — with an eye toward “actively engaging” the White House and the U.S. Congress. In response, Trump put forth $3 billion in competitive bidding on drugs, after asserting earlier this month that “I think drugs are a little bit out of control right now.” There’s plenty of reason to be concerned about skyrocketing drug prices in the U.S., but the new Merck study appears to highlight the crucial role that the United States must play in stopping Big Pharma.
The first two studies looked at COVID-19 in a study population that includes patients with elderly age and with kidney disease. They showed reductions in hospitalizations and deaths of up to 50 percent following treatment with Zepatier. Both were preliminary, but potentially encouraging for patients with kidney disease.
The third study took patients with severe infections in a hospital setting. Their levels of the infection-fighting proteins transaminase and caspase improved by up to 56 percent when they received Zepatier instead of an older version of the antibiotic. This is a finding that merits further development, but it’s much less encouraging than the two larger studies, with much higher percentages of patients having their infections cured. So, overall, the two larger studies were more encouraging, although both the large and small studies — plus the results from this other trial — speak to the critical role the United States must play in curbing skyrocketing drug prices.
There is much work to be done — and lots of ways to test COVID-19 to further increase the results. But, perhaps most importantly, there is an important lesson that this study results (and the results from previous trials) point to: Zepatier may be worth the steep price tag because it may be effective.