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FDA faults quality control at Lilly plant making Trump-touted COVID drug

By Dan Levine and Marisa Taylor

(Reuters) – U.S. drug inspectors uncovered serious quality control problems at an Eli Lilly and Co pharmaceutical plant that is ramping up to manufacture one of two promising COVID-19 drugs touted by President Trump as “a cure” for the disease, according to government documents and three sources familiar with the matter.

The Lilly antibody therapy, which is experimental and not yet approved by regulators as safe and effective, is similar to a drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals that was given to the president during his bout with COVID-19.

Trump, who credits the Regeneron drug with speeding his recovery, has called for both therapies to become available immediately on an emergency basis, raising expectations among some scientists and policy experts that the administration will imminently release an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for the drug. The president’s push is key to his efforts to convince voters he has an answer to the pandemic that has killed more than 215,000 Americans.

But the findings by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration inspectors at the Lilly manufacturing facility, which have not been disclosed previously, could complicate the drugmaker’s bid for a so-called emergency use authorization (EUA) from the federal agency, two of the sources and two outside legal experts told Reuters. That’s because U.S. law generally requires compliance with manufacturing standards for authorization of a drug.

The three sources who spoke to Reuters requested that their names be withheld so they could speak freely without fear of retaliation.

Inspectors who visited the Lilly plant in Branchburg, New Jersey, last November found that data on the plant’s various manufacturing processes had been deleted and not appropriately audited, government inspection documents show.

“The deleted incidents and related audit trail were not reviewed by the quality unit,” the FDA inspectors wrote. Because the government inspection documents reviewed by Reuters were heavily redacted by the FDA it was not possible to see the inspectors’ more specific findings.

Following its November inspection, the FDA classified the problems as the most serious level of violation, resulting in an “Official Action Indicated” (OAI) notice.

That “means that the violations are serious enough and have a significant enough impact on the public health that something needs to be fixed,” said Patricia Zettler, a former associate chief counsel at the FDA who is now a law professor at Ohio State University.

Separately, Lilly said on Tuesday it had paused its clinical trial for the COVID drug in hospitalized patients “out of an abundance of caution” over a potential safety concern. The company did not release information on what the problem was and declined to say how the news might affect their EUA request.

In response to Reuters’ questions on Monday about the manufacturing issues, Lilly confirmed the OAI notice but declined to provide details on what prompted the FDA action. The drugmaker said it has launched a “comprehensive remediation plan,” has increased staffing at the site and was working “aggressively” to address all concerns raised during

Trump-touted hydroxychloroquine shows no benefit in COVID-19 prevention: study

(Reuters) – A malaria drug taken by U.S. President Donald Trump to prevent COVID-19 did not show any benefit versus placebo in reducing coronavirus infection among healthcare workers, according to clinical trial results published on Wednesday.

The study largely confirms results from a clinical trial in June that showed hydroxychloroquine was ineffective in preventing infection among people exposed to the new coronavirus.

Trump began backing hydroxychloroquine early in the pandemic and told reporters in May he started taking the drug after two White House staffers tested positive for COVID-19. Studies have found the drug to offer little benefit as a treatment.

In the study of 125 participants, four who had taken hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment for eight weeks contracted COVID-19, and four on placebo tested positive for the virus.

All eight were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization, according to the results published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

The research shows that routine use of the drug cannot be recommended among healthcare workers to prevent COVID-19, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said.

The study authors said it was possible that a trial conducted in a community with higher prevalence of the disease could allow detection of a greater benefit from the drug.

In the latest trial, which was terminated before it could reach its enrollment target of 200 participants, mild side effects such as diarrhea were more common in participants taking the malaria drug compared to placebo.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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Trump-Touted Hydroxychloroquine Shows No Benefit in COVID-19 Prevention: Study | Top News

(Reuters) – A malaria drug taken by U.S. President Donald Trump to prevent COVID-19 did not show any benefit versus placebo in reducing coronavirus infection among healthcare workers, according to clinical trial results published on Wednesday.

The study largely confirms results from a clinical trial in June that showed hydroxychloroquine was ineffective in preventing infection among people exposed to the new coronavirus.

Trump began backing hydroxychloroquine early in the pandemic and told reporters in May he started taking the drug after two White House staffers tested positive for COVID-19. Studies have found the drug to offer little benefit as a treatment.

In the study of 125 participants, four who had taken hydroxychloroquine as a preventative treatment for eight weeks contracted COVID-19, and four on placebo tested positive for the virus.

All eight were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization, according to the results published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

The research shows that routine use of the drug cannot be recommended among healthcare workers to prevent COVID-19, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania said.

The study authors said it was possible that a trial conducted in a community with higher prevalence of the disease could allow detection of a greater benefit from the drug.

In the latest trial, which was terminated before it could reach its enrollment target of 200 participants, mild side effects such as diarrhea were more common in participants taking the malaria drug compared to placebo.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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