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Could Regeneron's Antibody Therapy Be as Important as Vaccines in Fighting COVID?

By Keith Speights and Brian Orelli, PhD - Mar 31, 2021 at 7:01AM

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There are a couple of obstacles that could get in the way.

Regeneron Pharmaceuticals (REGN 1.37%) recently announced overwhelmingly positive results from a late-stage study of its antibody cocktail therapy in treating individuals infected with COVID-19. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on March 24, 2021, Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss whether or not Regeneron's therapy could be as important as vaccines in the fight against COVID-19.

Keith Speights: Well, all right, Brian, let's turn to some unambiguously good news on the COVID-19 front. On Tuesday, Regeneron, the ticker there is REGN, Regeneron announced overwhelmingly positive results from a late-stage study of its antibody cocktail, REGN-COV, in treating infected patients with COVID who were not in the hospital. The biotech said that its therapy reduced hospitalization or death by 70% and it shortened the duration of symptoms by around four days.

Brian, we talk a lot about COVID vaccines, but how important do you think Regeneron's antibody therapy could potentially be in fighting COVID-19?

Brian Orelli: I totally agree this is solid news. Many people are going to not get vaccinated and some of those people are going to come down with COVID, really sick. Even some people who do get vaccinated are going to come down with COVID.

The problem with the data as I see it is that they were testing in high-risk, non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients. That means if Regeneron, to get a sale, they need first the doctor to recognize that the patient is high-risk. Some of those are going to be obvious, but others might be less obvious, and doctors are going to be hemming and hawing over whether they should be giving the treatment.

Then the other issue is that the patients need to seek out treatment before they're sick enough that they end up in the hospital. Then as COVID fades, people are going to be less likely to be thinking about COVID, and maybe be thinking it's the flu, and so they may wait to seek treatment until it's too late because they just figure out, I'm feeling down. They don't have COVID on their mind because COVID is not a major issue anymore, and so maybe I have the flu. Then by the time that they actually develop enough symptoms to have COVID, now they're in the hospital and now they're not eligible for this antibody treatment.

Speights: Yeah. Brian, do you think Regeneron has a bigger market opportunity with this therapy than, say, Gilead Sciences (GILD 0.51%) does with remdesivir going forward?

Orelli: I don't know. It's really hard to know because I don't think that we know where the levels are going to be, but I almost feel like you might end up with more people. A higher percentage of the COVID-19 cases end up in the hospital than there were before, just because a lot of people are going to get vaccinated, and I think that the people who would theoretically take this antibody are probably just not going to seek treatment early enough, I think is the issue. So, I almost think remdesivir might have a better opportunity here than the antibody cocktails that have to be used before you are sick enough that they don't help you anymore.

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Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Stock Quote
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
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Gilead Sciences, Inc. Stock Quote
Gilead Sciences, Inc.
GILD
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