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Can AstraZeneca's COVID Antibody Therapy Win Against Regeneron and Eli Lilly?

AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) awaits U.S. Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 antibody therapy as a prophylaxis. The company also recently announced positive results for the therapy in treating severe COVID-19. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on Oct. 13, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss how effective AstraZeneca might be in competing against antibody therapies marketed by COVID-19 antibody therapies already on the market.

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Keith Speights: Brian, we talked last week about AstraZeneca's filing for Emergency Use Authorization for its antibody therapy as the COVID-19 prophylaxis. While on Monday of this week, AstraZeneca announced results from a phase 3 study of the therapy in treating severe COVID-19, so not as a prophylaxis here, but as a treatment.

What do you make of those results and do you think AstraZeneca might be able to take market share away from the current leaders in the antibody therapy market, Regeneron (NASDAQ: REGN) and Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY)?

Brian Orelli: AstraZeneca's drug is injected, and that's a huge advantage over antibodies that have to be infused. Regeneron's is recommended for infusion and when it's used as treatment, and that's a requirement of GlaxoSmithKline's and Vir's antibody. Then Eli Lilly's is injected, but it's had some issues with it not working against some variants, so AstraZeneca probably has an advantage over Eli Lilly there.

Turning to the data, AstraZeneca's antibody reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 50% when it was given within seven days of symptom onset. They also looked at a subset of people who were given the antibody within five days of symptom onset, and then the data looked a little better. It was 67% reduction in the risk of hospitalization or death.

Looking back at the 50%, it's not that great compared to other antibodies where reductions were in the 70% plus range. But these are small trials, so just a few patients can really skew the numbers significantly.

So in AstraZeneca's trial they were comparing 18 patients in the treatment group who were hospitalized or died versus 37 people in the placebo group who were hospitalized or died. Just a few patients one way or the other could really skew that from 50% to 70% pretty easily. I think the convenience factor will help AstraZeneca here and it could take some market share from the current approved or authorized treatments.

Speights: Brian, I was thinking. If we went back to, say the summer of 2020, and we were speculating how AstraZeneca would fair in the COVID-19 market, I know that I personally wouldn't have said, "Oh, the company won't be a factor in the vaccine race, but it could be a big player in the antibody therapy race." That is not a prediction I would've made, but it just goes to show how the dynamics of this market and really, bio-pharmaceutical markets in general, can change quickly from what you think they're going to be.

Orelli: Yeah. Obviously, they had some issues with the manufacturing. With Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) taking over the plant that they were going to share with Johnson & Johnson, and so that caused a lot of problems.

But also, they're not making any money off of this. Once they're going to be the third or fourth vaccine to be approved or authorized in the U.S., I think that that was the reason why they just bowed out in the U.S. and focus heavily on Europe where they felt like they could be the biggest help to the countries.

Brian Orelli, PhD has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Keith Speights has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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