The Pasteur Institute in Lille, which announced several weeks ago the discovery of a “very effective” and possibly immediately available drug against SARS-Cov-2, refuses to give its name to avoid “hysteria”. According to the AEF Info, the medication in question is Clofoctol, an old suppository prescribed for mild respiratory diseases.
For several weeks, the Pasteur Institute has kept the secret about a drug that is particularly effective against COVID-19. We discovered a very promising molecule,” said Benoît Déprez, scientific director of the Pasteur Institute in Lille in September. It is an existing drug that could be used immediately. The research team examined more than 2,000 molecules already available for other diseases in order to identify a molecule whose effects could be beneficial in the face of SARS-Cov-2, and as a result, discovered this molecule with very encouraging results. For the time being, however, the research organization refuses to reveal the name of the drug to avoid hysteria in pharmacies, as we have already seen with hydroxychloroquine.
A suppository that was taken off the French market in 2005
However, AEF info claims that the drug in question is Clofoctol, an antibiotic that was used in France from 1978 to 2005 in the form of the suppository Octofene for the treatment of benign respiratory tract infections. At the request of the AEF, the Pasteur Institute did not want to “confirm or deny” the name of the molecule but confirmed its effectiveness in vitro. “This molecule, unlike hydroxychloroquine, has an effect on the two points of entry of the virus into human cells. Furthermore, “unlike Remdesivir, it does not need to increase its concentration to be effective,” Benoît Déprez told AEF info. If its effects are proven by clinical trials, it would be an early treatment against the coronavirus. The molecule could be administered to the patient on an outpatient basis as soon as a positive PCR test is obtained, to lower the viral load, reduce the risk of infection and prevent the patient from developing a serious form of the disease. Clofoctol is still available in the Italian Market under the brand name Gramplus for around 12 euros.
Fear of parallel markets
Octofene, which was withdrawn from the market in 2005 by the Fournier laboratory “on the basis of recommendations on the correct use of antibiotics” has the advantage of being sold at a modest price (at that time 1.81 euros about $2 per box of eight suppositories). But why keep the name of this substance so secret if the drug is no longer on the market? The molecule remains available in other European countries for various applications, so the Pasteur Institute fears the emergence of a real parallel market. “A shortage of the product could prevent us from carrying out a proper process,” fears Benoît Déprez.
An effective media frenzy
However, the lab made the decision to divulge its discovery to the media in order to obtain funding for its clinical trial. The bet was successful, as the president of the Hauts-de-France region, Xavier Bertrand, responded to Twitter on October 1 and promised financial support of almost 800,000 euros. But the biggest contribution came from the private sector: the luxury group LVMH announced a donation of five million euros to the foundation on Friday, October 9, after its CEO Bernard Arnault heard Benoît Déprez in the media. The money raised will be used to carry out double-blind clinical studies on animals and people. “The aim is to obtain a scientifically sound result, not to work towards a commercial goal,” stresses Benoît Déprez. However, if confirmed, this discovery would be welcome for an institute which, according to AEF Info, loses between three and four million euros a year.
.@PasteurLille, en collaboration avec Apteeus, avance dans la recherche d’un traitement contre la #COVID19 ! Lors de la prochaine séance plénière de la Région @hautsdefrance, je proposerai aux élus une délibération visant à soutenir financièrement ce programme. https://t.co/GswmHiXnvj
— Xavier Bertrand (@xavierbertrand) October 1, 2020