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J&J’s new flu drug flop shows how difficult it is to fight viruses

Johnson & Johnson stopped developing the drug pimodivir in the final stage of testing it for patients with influenza A, the most common cause of flu, after a study indicated it won't work.

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Bloomberg: Johnson & Johnson halted the development of a new flu drug after a study suggested it wouldn’t work, a sign of how difficult it is to create treatments for viral infections as the world races to contain Covid-19.

  • The drug, pimodivir, was in the final stage of testing for patients with influenza A, the most common cause of the flu, when an interim look at the data showed it was unlikely to be better than standard care in helping hospitalized patients. The company stopped that trial and another in less-sick patients who weren’t hospitalized.

Key insights

  • While J&J’s move doesn’t have any bearing on the fate of drugs and vaccines being developed for coronavirus, it highlights how hard it is to create new treatments, particularly for viral infections, and the risk of failure as the world counts on the pharmaceutical industry to help safely return it to normal life.
  • J&J reached the decision in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which helped pay for pimodivir’s development. BARDA has awarded billions of dollars in contracts to the drug industry to speed development of treatments for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19.
  • J&J licensed the drug from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. in 2014 and began the final stage of its study in January 2018. It compared pimodivir to standard of care, which could have included Roche Holding AG’s Tamiflu, one of the few medicines for influenza that speeds recovery and is now available in generic form.- Bloomberg

Also read: US NIH experts say not enough data to back plasma therapy for Covid


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