Japan’s Shionogi trumpets COVID-19 pill

An experimental treatment from Japanese pharmaceutical company Shionogi has shown rapid clearance of the virus that causes COVID-19, according to new data.

The pill, S-217622, “demonstrated rapid clearance of the infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus”, Shionogi said in a statement, citing Phase-2b results from the Phase II/III clinical trial of the drug.

The company has global aspirations for the antiviral pill, which is now being evaluated by Japanese regulators.

The findings released also showed “there was no significant difference in total score of 12 COVID-19 symptoms between treatment arms” although the drug showed improvement in a composite score of five “respiratory and feverish” symptoms, Shionogi said.

The company said in March it would launch a global Phase III trial worldwide for the drug with US government support, and CEO Isao Teshirogi has said production could reach 10 million doses a year.

Shionogi’s stock climbed last week after a report the US government is in talks to acquire supplies of the drug.

The news from Japan comes as Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche’s first-quarter sales rose 10% on strong US demand for rapid COVID-19 antigen tests and specialty drugs.

However, the Swiss company reaffirmed that a drop in pandemic-related demand would put the brakes on growth.

Roche CEO Severin Schwan predicted much lower COVID related sales, mainly from tests and antibody treatment Ronapreve, from now on.

“There is of course a scenario where there is an upside in the winter season, depending on how COVID-19 will develop but that is not our planning scenario,” he said on a call.

Roche also reaffirmed that sales of COVID-19 medicines and diagnostics would decrease by about 2 billion Swiss francs this year to around 5 billion francs.

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