BRUSSELS, June 3 (Reuters) - The European Union has secured about 55,000 doses of a potential treatment for COVID-19 based on a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies developed by U.S. drugmaker Regeneron and Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, an EU spokesman said.
The deal is the bloc’s first contract for this kind of drug.
Having reserved billions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the EU is now trying to build a portfolio of drugs that could be effective against the disease, with the aim of identifying 10 promising treatments by the end of the month.
The deal with Roche was reached in April, the company told Reuters, but contract details were not made public.
An European Commission spokesman said on Thursday the EU had secured about 55,000 doses of the single-dose treatment.
Roche declined to comment on the number of doses, but said the contract covered 37 European countries, including Britain and other non-EU nations. A company spokeswoman said the deal involved the drug’s infusion version, though it has also been tested as a shot.
The parties declined to disclose the price.
The treatment is the first based on monoclonal antibodies to be secured by the EU.
The only other anti-COVID drug the EU has bought is Gilead’s remdesivir, an antiviral medicine. Last year, the EU reserved half a million courses after the drug obtained a conditional EU approval.
European countries would buy the Roche-Regeneron drug, which is composed of the monoclonal antibodies casirivimab and imdevimab, only after it was approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) or by national drug regulators.
“The EU authorisation is expected between August and October 2021,” an EU document says, citing Roche estimates.
Roche declined to comment on the estimated timetable. “We are in discussion with health authorities and will provide an update later this year,” a spokeswoman said.
Non-EU Switzerland ordered 3,000 doses, on optimism the drug could also be used as a preventative treatment after studies showed it cut risk of symptomatic infections in households where somebody else had COVID-19.
The EMA said it had not fixed a date for possible approval, as the companies must first formally apply for conditional authorisation. The EMA has been conducting a rolling review of preliminary data since February.
Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies that the body generates to fight infection.
The cocktail reduced hospitalisation or death by 70% in COVID-19 patients and shortened the duration of symptoms by four days, large scale trial data showed.
Regeneron has enlisted Roche and its South San Francisco biotech facility to make 2 million doses annually.
The cocktail already has emergency U.S. approval for mild to moderate COVID-19 patients. The U.S. government has ordered 1.5 million doses. (Reporting by Francesco Guarascio @fraguarascio Editing by Mark Potter)