An Israeli biopharmaceutical firm has treated a coronavirus patient with an experimental drug aimed to lessen symptoms, after receiving a green light to use the drug in Italy.
According to Redhill Biopharma, a coronavirus patient currently suffering from respiratory complaints in hospital in Israel was dosed with the drug following approval from Israel’s Health Ministry under a compassionate use programme.
Additional patients are expected to be treated in the coming days.
Italy has also approved the compassionate use of the drug for approximately 160 patients across three hospitals in the north of the country.
In a statement, Redhill’s medical director Dr Mark Levitt said the programme allows doctors in Italy “to treat patients at high risk of developing pneumonia and those with pneumonia, including acute respiratory distress syndrome, secondary to SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“RedHill is working diligently to evaluate the potential of opaganib as a treatment for COVID-19 to help patients worldwide in urgent need of a treatment option.”
The drug – Opaganib – is an investigational drug, meaning it has undergone testing, but has yet to be approved for widespread use.
To date, it has been tested on 131 subjects in the United States. Designed to have anticancer, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, it is hoped to be able to lessen the symptoms of coronavirus. However, it is not a vaccine, nor is it meant to build immunity or prevent infection.
Compassionate use is when medical personnel treat patients with experimental drugs outside of clinical trials, under special circumstances, and with the approval of medical authorities.
“The treatment of Covid-19 patients with Opaganib is supported by pre-clinical data demonstrating its unique anti-viral activity in a number of other viruses, as well as its anti-inflammatory activities and potential to reduce lung inflammation,” said Dr Levitt.
The firm also said it was preparing to ramp up manufacturing of Opaganib should the drug to be of use, and was in discussions with the US and other countries about its potential use in fighting the pandemic.