Vanda's experimental COVID-19 drug shows promise in interim trial data

(Reuters) - COVID-19 patients with pneumonia improved faster when treated with Vanda Pharmaceuticals Inc’s experimental therapy than those on placebo, the company said on Tuesday, citing an interim analysis of data from a late-stage study.

Shares of the U.S. drug developer rose over 13% before the opening bell.

While the data from 60 patients showed that a 14-day treatment with the drug, tradipitant, helped speed up clinical improvements by day seven, the company warned a larger patient size was needed to confirm the benefit.

So far, Gilead Sciences Inc’s antiviral remdesivir and the generic steroid dexamethasone have been shown to help patients with COVID-19 in rigorous clinical trials.

The U.S. drug developer, which licensed tradipitant from Eli Lilly and Co in 2012, eventually plans to enroll 300 patients in the late-stage trial.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has imposed a partial clinical hold on tradipitant trials that are longer than 12 weeks, citing the need for additional studies before testing the drug in humans beyond that timeframe. A U.S. court sided with the FDA in January over a legal dispute related to the agency’s decision.

The drug is also being tested as a treatment for various conditions including atopic dermatitis and motion sickness. The company says the drug targets a receptor in the body that could be associated with causing lung injury.

Vanda said the drug’s properties as an anti-inflammatory agent would complement antiviral drugs for COVID-19, if the results from its analysis were confirmed.

Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Krishna Chandra Eluri