Pharma poised to cash in on ‘long COVID’ symptoms

While there’s hope that vaccination campaigns may bring the pandemic under control, “long COVID” side effects may continue to affect patients for some time.

According to analysts from Jefferies, several pharma companies could stand to benefit with products that could help with issues such as mental health, lung scarring, kidney disease and heart failure.

Although in many cases COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, it is known to attack other organs, causing  a range of longer-term problems known as “long COVID”.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on mental health, according to Jefferies, with doctors questioned in a small survey expecting an increase in anxiety and mood disorders.

Conditions most likely to be more commonly presented are major depressive disorder, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder and self-harm.

Lundbeck with its depression drug Trintellix/Brintellix and its Rexulti schizophrenia drug, which is marketed in partnership with Otsuka, could see sales increase in a post-COVID world.

Gedeon Richter and AbbVie with their schizophrenia, bipolar mania and bipolar drug Vraylar could also see sales increase in the mental health crisis, along with a host of other smaller biotechs with potential mental health products such as Idorsia, Relmada and Vistagen.

Lung fibrosis (scarring) is another potential side-effect of COVID-19 and Jefferies expects a proportion of survivors to be left with residual functional impairment.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis treatments from Roche (Esbriet) and Boehringer Ingelheim (Ofev) could be used but only in the most severe cases due to their side-effects.

Pipeline IPF drugs from FibroGen, Galapagos and PureTech could also generate sales if approved during the COVID recovery period, the analysts said.

For kidney disease AstraZeneca, FibroGen, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Travere could see sales increase.

Heart failure drugs from Novartis (Entresto) and AstraZeneca (Farxiga) are also potential beneficiaries.

Overall the companies most likely to benefit from COVID-19 are Sanofi, Novartis, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline who have a range of products that will be in demand as the pandemic recedes.

But companies that will miss out have products focused in the wrong areas with Jefferies’ “back of the envelope” analysis suggesting the companies likely to suffer are Novo Nordisk, Merck & Co and Eli Lilly.

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