China Junshi’s potential COVID-19 drug shows promise in small trial

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An antiviral oral drug being co-developed by Shanghai Junshi Biosciences’ subsidiary and other Chinese institutes showed early promise in speeding the clearing of virus in COVID-19 patients, according to a small clinical trial.

The drug, called VV116, is a derivative of Gilead SciencesInc’s COVID-19 drug remdesivir and was approved for use in moderate to severe cases in Uzbekistan last year.

The viral shedding period, defined by its trial researchers as the duration between the first positive COVID-19 test result and the first negative one, was 8.56 days for participants who took the experimental treatment within five days from the first positive test result.

That was shorter than 11.13 days seen in the control group, peer-reviewed data showed.
The trial involved 136 mild or moderate adult COVID-19 infections recruited in March in China.

Participants were given either the five-day course oral drug along with standard treatment or standard treatment only, researchers said in a paper Emerging Microbes & Infections.

Overall, there was no significant difference between the viral shedding period for those who took VV116 more than five days after first positive result and the control group.

Limitations of the study include the small trial size and a higher portion of participants in the control group reporting symptoms, which could result in potential bias that researchers had to adjust with the statistical model, the paper said.

The drug is undergoing a Phase III trial to evaluate its efficacy in mild to moderate patients in comparison with Pfizer Inc’s oral pill Paxlovid, and a separate Phase III trial in moderate to severe cases.

China has approved Paxlovid as well as Brii Biosciences Ltd antibody-based injection for mild and moderate COVID-19 patients with high risk of progressing to severe conditions.