After another Kevzara fail in COVID-19, Sanofi and Regeneron shift their attention elsewhere

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Sanofi is advancing two vaccine programs against COVID-19, one in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline and the other with Translate Bio. (Sanofi)

In yet another hit for IL-6 inhibitors in COVID-19, Sanofi and Regeneron's Kevzara failed a study in hundreds of severe and critical patients—and the partners are now giving up on the rheumatoid arthritis med as a coronavirus treatment.

In a Tuesday update, Sanofi said that its study of Kevzara in 420 patients in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Russia and Spain didn't meet its endpoints. Patients who received the medicine did experience slightly shorter hospital stays and speedier improvements in their condition versus placebo, but the results weren’t statistically significant.

The Kevzara study, like others for Roche's IL-6 inhibitor Actemra, came from a theory that inhibiting IL-6 may help stave off the potentially deadly cytokine storm associated with some COVID-19 infections. Even though the trial failed, Sanofi is proud of its work advancing knowledge of the disease, R&D chief John Reed said in a statement. 

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“In times like these, commitment to properly designed, controlled clinical trials, provides the information and understanding the scientific community needs for fact-based decision making,” he added. 

RELATED: Sanofi, Regeneron shut down Kevzara trial in COVID-19 after finding no benefit for ventilated patients 

The latest results follow last month's failure of a U.S. study of Kevzara in coronavirus patients. Regeneron, which led that trial, reported some “minor positive trends," but again the med’s benefit didn’t reach statistical significance. 

While Sanofi and Regeneron aren't planning any further studies on Kevzara, Roche said in late July it's committed to researching Actemra in COVID-19, including in combo with Gilead's remdesivir.

Looking forward for Sanofi, the company is advancing two COVID-19 vaccine candidates—one in partnership with GlaxoSmithKline and other with Translate Bio—while Regeneron has a promising antibody treatment. In a note this week, analysts with Morningstar said a Regeneron cocktail therapy could score $6 billion in revenue next year if approved. 

RELATED: Sanofi chose a proven platform over speed in its COVID-19 vaccine hunt, CEO says 

The coronavirus vaccine field, meanwhile, will be worth around $18 billion next year, Bernstein analyst Ronny Gal wrote on Monday. His team predicts the Sanofi/GSK partnership will earn around $2 billion in COVID-19 vaccine revenues during 2021 and 2022, with the number gradually declining in later years. 

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