Experimental COVID-19 Treatment Shows Promise in Clinical Study
In a large clinical trial, an experimental COVID-19 treatment called Pegylated Interferon Lambda, prevented 51% of hospitalizations. More than 82% of trial participants had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 58% had gotten at least 2 doses, prior to the study. For fully vaccinated people, some other treatments have not provided enough added protection to justify their use, given their side effects. This is because younger adults without a weakened immune system who are up to date on COVID-19 vaccines face a low risk of hospitalization. Interferon’s effectiveness in this lower risk group offers hope for a new tool to prevent infections from progressing to severe disease.
The study’s results indicate that the new drug could have multiple advantages over Paxlovid. Interferon lambda could be slightly more effective, while causing very minimal side effects. For most patients, Paxlovid is currently the only viable treatment option. A recent study showed Paxlovid to prevent hospitalization by 44% for vaccinated people, but the drug can cause side effects and cannot be taken in combination with some commonly prescribed drugs such as blood thinners and cancer medications. Interferon lambda does not require patients to stop taking existing medications. It also has the advantage of being given as a single injection, as opposed to Paxlovid’s regimen of 30 pills taken over 5 days.
The FDA has determined that more research is needed for the new treatment to obtain authorization. Eiger BioPharmaceuticals, the company producing the drug, has also applied for its authorization in China and Australia.