None of the treatments the four US “genius” drug companies that Donald Trump claims could help Boris Johnson recover from Covid-19 are clinically tested for coronavirus or available on the market, it has emerged.
Trump said he had spoken to four companies working with the US government on Monday and had asked two of them to “contact London immediately” about assisting with the prime minister’s treatment.
Downing Street has indicated it does not wish to take up Trump’s offer of experimental drugs.
Nonetheless, one of the companies, Gilead, which made the drug Remdesivir that was used in trials for Ebola treatment, confirmed that the president had spoken to its chief executive. But it said its therapeutic drug had not yet been clinically tested, a process that was under way.
“He did call our our CEO in the day yesterday but we cannot go beyond that,” said a spokeswoman.
Trump implied that drugs that could help the prime minister were on their way to St Thomas’ hospital in London where Johnson remains in intensive care.
“I’ve talked to four of them today and they speak a language that most people do not understand but I understand something … they’ve really advanced therapeutics and therapeutically and they’ve arrived in London already, their London office has whatever they need and we will see if we can be of help.
“We’ve contacted all of Boris’s doctors and we’ll see what is going to take place but they are ready to go,” he said.
But on Tuesday a spokeswoman at Gilead’s London’s headquarters said its drug, Remdesivir, had not been tested yet and would only be available if a patient’s doctor specifically requested it.
It was developed more than 10 years ago after a decade of research around hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial virus.
Research scientists have explored the compound for multiple potential uses to help address urgent and unmet medical needs around the world, including Ebola, Sars, Marburg, Mers and most recently Covid-19.
Laboratory trials for its use as a treatment for Sars were successful in 2014 but as the virus burned itself out clinical trials could not take place.
“It is critical we do these clinical trials [for Covid-19] and show its efficacy. It would be irresponsible to make it widely available,” the company said.
It has made it available to 1,700 on a “compassionate” basis but only when a physician requests it for a named patient.
The company said yesterday it planned to donate 1.5m doses of Remdesivir to ongoing clinical trials with hopes that it can produce enough for a million treatment courses by the end of the year.
The White House confirmed the president had spoken to three other companies yesterday Genentech, Amgen and Regeneron but none of their products are available even on a compassionate basis.
Last week the Californian biotech company Amgen announced it was teaming up with the Seattle-based Adaptive Biotechnologies to try to identify virus-neutralising antibodies which would help them engineer a treatment – but this investigation is only at the starting blocks. DeCode Genetics, an Iceland-based subsidiary of Amgen, will provide genetic insights from patients who have recovered from Covid-19.
Genentech, a subsidiary of the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche which is credited with the success of testing in Germany, is in advanced stages of investigation into an arthritis drug Actemra as a treatment for coronavirus.
The first patients enrolled in a phase three trial in France and Spain. Participants have to have severe cases of Covid-19 marked by pneumonia and require hospitalisation. Initial results are expected in the summer, according to Reuters.
The company has teamed up with Sanofi in France to expand a trial of its rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara to patients outside the US where trials have just started. It is now enrolling patients in Italy, Spain, Germany, France, Canada, and Russia. The US trials began last week.
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