Arthritis drug baricitinib found effective to treat Covid patients


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The NHS on Thursday (May 5) said it has rolled out the arthritis drug baricitinib for seriously ill Covid patients.

The Recovery trial, conducted by the NHS and University of Oxford, found that 13 per cent fewer severely ill patients died of Covid when treated with the drug compared to existing treatment options.

Typically used to treat arthritis to reduce pain and inflammation, baricitinib can now be given to hospitalised Covid patients in addition to current treatments, and clinical studies show that this can provide benefits on top of existing treatment.

The NHS has led the rollout of Covid medicines, from the discovery of dexamethasone as the world’s first effective treatment, to the first vaccination outside of a clinical trial in December 2020.

The NHS said baricitinib works by reducing inflammation caused by Covid-19 by blocking signals to the immune system that are causing it to attack the body.

As well as these arthritis drugs, the NHS continues to use other monoclonal antibody and antiviral treatments, and combined these Covid medicines have been given to hundreds of thousands of patients, saving tens of thousands of lives, the health body added.

“The more effective Covid treatments within the NHS arsenal, the more options doctors have to help patients who become seriously ill with Covid, preventing hospital admissions and saving lives,” NHS Medical Director Professor Steve Powis said.

“This is the fourth drug that has been fast-tracked for use on the NHS thanks to the world-leading Recovery trial and is just as important because it gives our hard-working clinicians another life-saving treatment option and strengthens our defence against Covid-19.”

The agreement to offer baricitinib to treat Covid patients in hospital follows that of similar drugs, tocilizumab and sarilumab, which are also routinely used for rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

It will be the seventh Covid treatment approved in total for use on the NHS, and will be used to treat hospitalised patients in line with the MHRA guidance.

Sir Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford Population Health, and Joint Chief Investigator for Recovery, said: “We’re delighted that the Recovery trial has identified another treatment for patients hospitalised with COVID-19.

“Baricitinib works in addition to other proven therapies (such as dexamethasone). Although we have effective vaccines and treatments, hospitalisation with COVID-19 is still associated with poor outcomes so it’s vital that we continue to use randomised trials to identify new therapies that can reduce risk further.”

Baricitnib is the fourth treatment that the Recovery trial has shown to save lives, following the steroid dexamethasone, the arthritis treatment tocilizumab, and a combination of monoclonal antibodies (casirivimab plus imdevimab) targeting the viral spike protein, known as Ronapreve.


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