Regulators authorize treatment against COVID-19

Federal regulators in the United States on Thursday authorized the emergency use of another treatment for COVID-19, the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib, to be administered alongside a drug already used to care for hospitalized patients with severe symptoms.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the new use of baricitinib, from the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly, along with remdesivir, for adults and children 2 years and older who are hospitalized and need to be connected to a respirator or oxygen therapy.

Remdesivir is the first and only drug approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19. The emergency authorization for baricitinib functions as a preliminary approval until more information is available to show that the drug works against the coronavirus.

The FDA said the combination of the drugs appeared to reduce recovery time in hospitalized patients, compared with patients who received only remdesivir.

The agency noted that further investigation will be needed to confirm the benefit.

Eli Lilly, based in Indianapolis, markets baricitinib as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, which is the least common form of arthritis and occurs when the immune system attacks the joints, causing inflammation. An overly active immune system can also lead to serious problems in coronavirus patients.

The FDA based its decision on a study of 1,000 patients in which those who received the drug cocktail, baricitinib plus remdesivir, or remdesivir plus a placebo, were randomly selected. The study was conducted by the National Institutes of Health.

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