The World Health Organization issued disappointing news on a key treatment — remdesivir — being tested for novel coronavirus patients.
Remdesivir was found to have no substantial effect on a Covid-19 patient’s chances of survival, according to a clinical trial by WHO.
The WHO’s highly anticipated Solidarity trial studied the effects of remdesivir and three other potential drug regimens in 11,266 hospitalized patients. The study covered patient data from March to October.
The study reported none of the treatments “substantially affected mortality” or reduced the need to ventilate patients.
The WHO said: “These remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little effect on in-hospital mortality.”
The results of the WHO trial also showed that the drugs had little effect on how long patients stayed in hospital. However, the study has not been peer-reviewed yet.
The maker of remdesivir, Gilead Sciences, challenged the findings. It said the WHO trial was “inconsistent with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies validating the clinical benefit of remdesivir.”
For its part, the WHO said the trial had “generated conclusive evidence” on the effectiveness of re-purposed drugs for the treatment of Covid-19.
I’m siding with the WHO on this one.
A trial as large as Solidarity would likely show a survival benefit for a drug, if one existed. It is one of the biggest such trials globally.
The WHO’s findings mean that the only drug proven currently to increase Covid-19 survival rates is dexamethasone. This is the cheap steroid that can be taken orally.
The WHO has recommended the use of the steroid for patients with severe cases of Covid-19, as President Trump did.
The Big News
Virus Resurges in Europe
The World Health Organization (WHO) is worried about Europe. It said the weekly number of new coronavirus cases there was now at its highest point since the start of the pandemic. This is not surprising. Europe followed the U.S. lead when, in late summer, it nearly fully re-opened its economy.
Lilly Has Quality Control Problems
U.S. drug inspectors uncovered serious quality control problems at an Eli Lilly pharmaceutical plant. The plant was ramping up to manufacture Lilly’s experimental antibody therapy for Covid-19. The findings by FDA inspectors at the Lilly manufacturing facility could complicate its bid for an Emergency Use Authorization from the agency. That’s because the FDA classified the problems as the most serious level of violation.
Schools Need Fresh Air
Schools are notorious for being chronically under-ventilated. This is a problem under normal conditions. It’s even more problematic in the pandemic. Public health professor Joseph Allen and his colleagues at Harvard have developed guidelines to help schools keep their air cleaner. Allen said, “This is a time for the basics of healthy buildings. And that’s bringing more fresh outdoor air in.”
Pfizer Vaccine in Mid-November
The CEO of Pfizer said today that the company would not apply for emergency authorization of its coronavirus vaccine before the third week of November. In a statement posted to the Pfizer website, Dr. Albert Bourla said that Pfizer could have preliminary numbers by the end of October about whether the vaccine works. But it would still need to collect safety and manufacturing data that will stretch the timeline to at least the third week of November.
Republicans Stimulus Squabble
President Trump said that he “would go higher” than the $1.8 trillion offer his administration has put forward in negotiations with Democrats. However, Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, said that would be “a much larger amount than I can sell to my members.” So, the biggest squabble seems to be between the White House and Senate Republicans.
The Coronavirus Numbers
Here are the numbers from Friday at 8 a.m. ET from Johns Hopkins University:
- 38,971,792 Infected Worldwide
- 1,098,982 Deaths
- 7,980,899 Infected in the U.S.
- 217,717 Deaths in the U.S.
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The market has not declined substantially yet. But it has an underlying weak tone.
This is likely due to a growing belief in the market that the easy phase of the recovery has now passed . . . and that the growth outlook for the fourth quarter was tilted a bit to the downside.
Still, positive news on vaccines or treatments for Covid-19 would quickly change that outlook.
The same scenario is unfolding overseas . . .
Faced with growing uncertainty, market participants are moving into safe haven assets. On Thursday, the yield on Germany’s 10-year bond fell to its lowest level since March with a yield of -0.63%.
The region of the world that looks best right now is North Asia, including China.
Thanks to lots of experience combating pandemics, most of these countries have the virus “contained.”
One reason is that mask-wearing in the region has been commonplace there for decades.
Even if a vaccine is developed, the global economic recovery will remain variable and gradual. That’s because distributing any vaccine around the world will take time.
That means sticking to the pandemic-winning stocks in tech and healthcare for now.
Yours in Health & Wealth,