Actemra (tocilizumab) is an anti-interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor biologic approved in 2010 for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Last week, the Swiss pharma giant announced initiation of Phase III trials to examine the product’s effectiveness against pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, after the Chinese government recommended its use for this indication.
In an announcement on Tuesday, the company said that due to the need for clinical supply of the drug, along with a potential increase in demand, ‘urgent’ works to accelerate manufacturing capacity and maximize production of Actemra are underway.
Roche said it aims to increase available supply of Actemra globally, at a time when the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic is causing shortages and disruptions to the global drug supply chain.
Calls on authorities' suppport to protect supply
“Despite some of the supply and logistics challenges due to COVID-19, Roche has been able to continue to deliver life-saving medicines to patients around the world, thanks to the resilience of its global network,” stated the company, adding that ‘limited disruptions’ are visible.
Further than monitoring the situation, the pharma giant said that provision of medicines is managed on a country level, in collaboration with authorities, and called on “governments across the world to work closely with industry to keep manufacturing and supply running.”
Specifically, the company outlined the support required by authorities, citing three actions that could assist the industry secure the supply chain:
- Ensure the free flow of vital goods across national borders to keep manufacturing and supply running
- Consider pragmatic temporary adjustments to regulations on packaging, reviews, customs etc, to expedite delivery of urgently needed medical supplies
- Work together across governments internationally, in order to balance global needs
A spokesperson for Roche was not immediately available for a further comment.
Further to Actemra, other approved medicines, such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, substances used to treat malaria, are being evaluated as potential treatments for coronavirus, leading manufacturers to increase production to meet rising demand.