Arthritis drug can be lifesaver for severe COVID-19 patients; UK study

By Amirtha P S, Desk Reporter
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The American pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly and the global biopharmaceutical company, Incyte’s arthritis drug baricitinib has helped to reduce the risk of death in hospitalized COVID-19 patients by 13 percent regardless of which other coronavirus treatment they were given, a large British study shows.

According to scientists from the University of Oxford, more than 8,000 patients were administered baricitinib in addition to usual care, at random, or usual care alone, as part of the RECOVERY trial.

The results from the study showed that 546 patients in the usual care group died within 28 days but only 513 patients in the baricitinib group died where they were also given a corticosteroid like dexamethasone, tocilizumab or remdesivir.

In the RECOVERY trial, baricitinib also increased the chances of patients being discharged alive within 28 days and reduced the risk of their condition worsening, the researchers said.

“This result confirms and extends earlier findings, providing greater certainty that baricitinib is beneficial and new data to guide the treatment of COVID-19 patients with a combination of drugs to dampen the immune response,” said Mr. Peter Horby, Oxford professor and joint chief investigator.

The findings are consistent with the US drugmakers’ own research from a smaller trial last August and come after a World Health Organization (WHO) panel had recommended baricitinib for patients with severe COVID-19 in combination with corticosteroids.

Baricitinib belongs to a class of drugs called Janus Kinase (JAK) inhibitors which work by blocking actions of enzymes that play a role in the immune system processes and lead to inflammation, often seen in severe COVID-19 as lung damage.

The US authorities have approved the emergency use of baricitinib, sold under the brand name Olumiant, with or without taking Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir, while European regulators are reviewing the treatment for approval.

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