Can an existing drug counter COVID-19? Oxford is conducting a study

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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Oxford University will study whether adalimumab, the world’s best-selling prescription medicine, is an effective therapy for patients with COVID-19.

This study will be the latest attempt to repurpose existing drugs as possible coronavirus therapies.

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Adalimumab, marketed by AbbVie under the brand name Humira, is a form of anti-inflammatory drug known as an anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drug. Oxford says that COVID-19 patients who are already taking anti-TNF drugs for inflammatory bowel disease and inflammatory arthritis are less likely to be admitted to hospital. This conclusion is based on research findings.

The Oxford trial, known as AVID-CC, will be designed to treat individuals in the community, especially in care homes, the university said. It will enroll up to 750 patients in Britain from community care settings.

Humira is used to treat a number of diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and psoriasis.

Oxford said that the availability of similar versions of the drug will make it affordable and accessible, if the trial is successful. Novartis, a Swiss multinational pharmaceutical company, also makes a similar drug, Hyrimoz.

Other anti-inflammatory drugs for COVID-19 treatment have also been examined by researchers. An over-reaction of the immune system, known as a cytokine storm, is believed to cause serious infections and drugs that inhibit certain elements of the immune system may play a role in preventing a rapid escalation of symptoms.

Across the globe, care homes were particularly hard hit by the first wave of COVID-19. If Humira is successful against COVID-19, it might benefit some older people who are some of the most vulnerable, at a time when governments are struggling to control the pandemic, Oxford said.

The Oxford research is funded by the global health charity Wellcome’s COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator program along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard.

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