NEW YORK, Aug. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- In the last 18 years, viral disease epidemics have killed almost 600,000 people across the globe. Today's pandemic is quickly adding to the number of deaths while seriously disrupting economies, businesses, and the health of millions. In the middle of all the chaos are pharmaceutical companies that health experts and the public have turned to for hope. As the New York Times put it, "one lesson from this pandemic is how dependent we are for our survival on an innovative and robust pharmaceutical industry." In response, pharma leaders are stepping up to meet the diverse needs of their target markets, such as Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) developing new potential vaccines and treatments, and AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN),Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD), and Cardiol Therapeutics Inc. (TSX: CRDL) (OTCQX:CRTPF) leveraging existing drugs to address the pandemic.
Cardiol Therapeutics Leveraging its lead Drug to Address Surprising Market Need
China and Italy were hit early by the pandemic. Early reports from those two countries pointed to a troubling and puzzling effect that has since been seen around the world: while the pandemic was primarily known for its respiratory threats, up to 20% of pandemic patients were found to be suffering heart damage, with many dying of cardiac arrest. The effect was even present in people without pre-existing heart conditions.
In response, Cardiol Therapeutics (TSX: CRDL) (OTCQX: CRTPF) announced it filed a patent application on May 6, 2020, covering the potential use of their drug CardiolRx to improve the outcome of pandemic patients by protecting them from heart damage. Only two months earlier, Cardiol signed an exclusive supplier agreement for CardiolRx with Canada's leading drug store retailer, Shoppers Drug Mart.
Cardiol Therapeutics' President and CEO, David Elsley, said that the company's strategy to develop CardiolRx for patients with heart failureis now taking on new meaning: "We look forward to the possibility of investigating the anti-inflammatory properties of our extra-strength CardiolRx formulation in patients affected by the pandemic who have cardiac injury, with the hope of significantly improving patient outcomes."
Before the pandemic, Cardiol Therapeutics was already focused on developing CardiolRx for the treatment of acute myocarditis and other types of heart failure, which remains a leading cause of death throughout the world. Research from leading institutions such as John Hopkins University, the British Journal of Medicine, and The Journal of American College of Cardiology points to the potential beneficial effects of the key ingredient in Cardiol Therapeutics' CardiolRx formulation, including its potential to protect the cardiovascular system, by reducing inflammatory responses and cardiac injury.
In March 2020, Cardiol Therapeutics received approval from Health Canada for a Phase 1 study of CardiolRx, and they have announced plans to initiate an international clinical drug program designed to demonstrate the impact of their drug on acute myocarditis.
Other Existing Drugs Being Leveraged
Gilead Sciences' (NASDAQ: GILD) existing antiviral medicine,Remdesivir, was initially developed in 2009 as a potential hepatitis C treatment. While the drug did not work as hoped, later lab tests suggested its potential for potent effects against a class of viruses including the one behind the current pandemic. As a result, Remdesivir maypotentially prove helpful in the treatment of COVID-19 and has received U.S. approval for use with pandemic patients. Sales of this drug could reach $7.7 billion in 2022.
AstraZeneca's (NYSE: AZN) existing cancer treatment Calquence (acalabrutinib) could be a potential agent against the current crisis. The company is currently developing a clinical trial of the drug in pandemic patients. AstraZeneca also caught the market's attention during the crisis through their work on developing a vaccine, by announcing their donation of nine million face masks to countries in need, and by their reported approach to Gilead Sciences in early June about a potential merger that, if successful, would be the biggest healthcare deal on record and among the 10 biggest M&A transactions of all time. As Bloomberg put it: "The overtures show how the pharmaceutical industry landscape could shift at a time when drug makers are racing to find effective treatments for the pandemic."
Developing New Potential Pandemic Solutions
Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) has started clinical trials toward a vaccine for the pandemic. In early May, they announced their goal of having millions of doses ready by the end of 2020 and hundreds of millions available in 2021, assumingtheir vaccine is proven to be safe and effective in the ongoing testing in thousands of people. Pfizer has also seen a jump in sales of its pneumonia vaccine, Prevnar 13, most likely due to the pandemic causing pneumonia in severe cases, with high mortality rates.
Eli Lilly and Company (NYSE: LLY) announced on June 1, 2020, that they had started human trials of a new anti-body therapy intended to treat pandemic sufferers. The trial's first phase will determine the therapy's safety. If the treatment later proves effective, it could be available by the Fall of 2020. Rather than trying to repurpose an existing medicine or drug, Eli Lilly and Company started work in the early days of the pandemic on this new treatment, known as a monoclonal antibody therapy, which uses an approach that has succeeded in treating other illnesses such as HIV, asthma, lupus, Ebola, and some forms of cancer.
The actions of these pharmaceutical leaders are not going unnoticed. Recent polling shows that the public's opinion of pharmaceutical companies is on the rise thanks to the perception that the companies are "responding to rescue us from global catastrophe."
This improved public perception will undoubtedly be reflected in the market, whether due to Pfizer (PFE) and Eli Lilly and Company (LLY) developing new solutions and treatments, AstraZeneca (AZN) and Gilead Sciences (GILD) using existing drugs for a new purpose, or Cardiol Therapeutics Inc. (CRDL) (CRTPF) discovering an entirely new market need for their drug CardiolRx to protect pandemic patients from heart damage.
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