Will AstraZeneca have a big market for its COVID-19 therapy?

AstraZeneca (NASDAQ: AZN) is still not a player in the US market with its COVID-19 vaccine. However, the large drugmaker recently filed for emergency use authorization in the United States (EUA) for a promising COVID-19 antibody therapy. In this Motley Fool Live video recorded on October 6Motley Fool contributors Keith Speights and Brian Orelli discuss the scale of the market opportunity for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 therapy.

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Keith Speights: AstraZeneca filed for emergency use authorization for its treatment with COVID-19 antibodies on Tuesday. Brian, how does this therapy work and there are already others on the market. Do you think there is a great market opportunity here for AstraZeneca?

Brian Orelli: It is an antibody unlike Regenerate‘sand Eli lilly‘s and then there is also one of GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology. They use these treatments. They can also be used as post-exposure prophylaxis. You know someone who has contracted COVID-19 and then you start taking these antibodies so that you can prevent yourself from contracting COVID-19.

But AstraZeneca uses it for prevention in people who otherwise might not be able to develop antibodies. Let’s say you’re on chemotherapy or taking an immunosuppressant for an organ transplant, that’s before you’re exposed, but you’re pretty sure your vaccine isn’t creating antibodies to a level that would protect you. This medicine contains two antibodies and then it has been optimized with AstraZeneca’s YTE half-life extension technology.

This more than triples the durability of the antibodies compared to conventional antibodies. They can last much longer in your system. They inject them into the patients and then they just hang out there and if they come across the coronavirus, they attach themselves to it and stimulate the rest of the immune system to respond to the coronavirus. Antibodies reduce the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by 77%.

It seems that the drug is really working and helping these patients. I think it’s a pretty small market here, so we’re only talking about people who are on chemotherapy or immunosuppressants and can’t develop antibodies to a vaccine. Basically the only people who are going to get vaccinated are people who should normally be vaccinated but who cannot get vaccinated.

If you are not ready to be vaccinated, you are probably also not ready to be vaccinated with AstraZeneca to prevent COVID-19. It does not mean anything. You just have to go get the shot. I think rather that people who are otherwise exposed might be more likely to go for a –

This is probably the largest market that AstraZeneca is targeting, where it’s just people who find themselves in this rare situation where they would like to get vaccinated, but they may even have received a vaccine. But their doctor is pretty sure the vaccine isn’t going to help them as much as it would help someone else, so you might get that injection of antibodies as well.

Speights: I think you’re right, Brian, and the other thing is that there are companies that Merck and Pfizer who are testing oral therapies, pills that could be used for post-exposure prophylaxis, and obviously if you have a choice between prophylaxis that you can take in pill form rather than having to stick a needle, you are going to go with the pill.

Orelli: Yes, it is obviously much easier.

Speights: Yeah, I think AstraZeneca’s opportunity here is pretty small, like you said.

Brian Orelli, PhD has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Keith Speights owns shares of Pfizer. The Motley Fool recommends GlaxoSmithKline. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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