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Johnson & Johnson Says There's Insufficient Evidence Its HIV Drug Can Treat COVID-19

By David Jagielski - Updated Mar 16, 2020 at 10:28AM

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The healthcare giant hasn't entirely written off its HIV drug in the treatment of the disease caused by the coronavirus, but it said there's a lack of data.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ 1.46%) released a statement on Monday that said there wasn't sufficient evidence to suggest its HIV drug darunavir (DRV) can effectively treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The company said HIV drugs are being considered as possible treatment options largely due to limited and "unpublished virological and clinical data" that demonstrated they were effective in treating the SARS coronavirus. Currently, HIV-1 patients use DRV with a boosting agent and in combination use with other antiretrovirals. There's no published data to suggest the combination would be effective in treating COVID-19, according to the company's press release.

J&J said it's working with multiple organizations to develop possible treatment options for COVID-19. However, the company stopped short of saying DRV is not a possible solution itself. J&J pointed out that there are three clinical studies in China that will assess DRV-based medicines and whether they can be effective against SARS-CoV-2.

Johnson & Johnson's stock is down nearly 9% year to date, compared to the broader market which has sunk by almost 22%.

Coronavirus in red background.

Image source: Getty Images.

Coronavirus now a pandemic

The World Health Organization officially classified the outbreak of the coronavirus as a pandemic on March 11. With more than 160,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world and over 6,400 deaths, the situation is worsening by the day. Healthcare stocks like J&J are trying to find solutions for the fast-spreading virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its recommendations for the public, saying all events with 50 people or more should be postponed until at least May. The CDC said, "large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities."

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