Novartis CEO warns that data on Covid-19 drugs is missing

Business was good for Novartis in the first quarter of the year. Keystone / Georgios Kefalas

Potential pharmaceutical solutions to combat Covid-19 must have strong clinical data to back their efficacy, according to Novartis boss Vasant Narasimhan. 

This content was published on April 28, 2020 - 09:51

Clinical studies that are properly conducted are necessary to really determine the benefit of drugs, Narasimhan told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday. Only a few drugs had met the standards so far, he said.  

The Swiss pharmaceutical company has initiated a clinical study with the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. Last month he told the Swiss media that pre-clinical studies in animals as well as the first data from clinical studies showed that hydroxychloroquine kills the coronavirus. While the therapy is not yet available, Narasimhan hinted that the first study results could be available in summer. 

The Basel-based company also announced its first quarter results on Tuesday, reporting a 11% increase in net sales and a turnover of $12.28 billion (CHF12 billion). Novartis says it has managed to weather the coronavirus storm to keep production facilities going. 

“Our operations and product demand remain very stable and strong. Mitigating actions helped to ensure minimal disruption to supply chain and ability to meet forward purchasing demand,” according to a company statement.  

Forward purchasing and lower spending meant that Novartis made an extra $400 million due to the coronavirus pandemic in the first quarter. However, it is likely that these gains will be reversed over the remainder of 2020, the company cautioned.  

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