Recovery period for COVID-19 patients may be shortened by a day as doctors found that an anti-inflammatory drug called baricitinib, in combination with the antiviral drug remdesivir, can effectively improve patients' recovery.

The drug baricitinib, which is mainly used for rheumatoid arthritis (RA) under the brand name Olumiant, is manufactured by Eli Lilly, an American pharmaceutical company based in Indiana, with offices in 18 countries globally.

The trial run, Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT-2) was conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) on more than 1,000 patients. On May 8, they combined 4mg dose of baricitinib with remdesivir and found that patients who received both drugs recovered faster by about a day. The researchers compared the recovery period with those who received only remdesivir. Aside from fast recovery, researchers also noted that the drug helped improve the outcome of the patients on day 15.

Patrik Jonsson, senior vice president of Eli Lilly and also the president of Lilly Bio-Medicines, in a press release said that they will continue to work with the agency so as to be able to understand the data that they have as well as the role of the drug as a treatment for COVID-19.

Due to the positive outcome of the trial, Eli Lilly is now trying to get a nod from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the emergency use of baricitinib on coronavirus patients admitted in hospitals. In the event that the drug gets authorisation, the next step of the pharmaceutical company is for the approval of the drug to be made available commercially.

At the same time, since the drug is mainly used for COVID-19 patients, Eli Lilly gave its assurance that they would make sure that the drug is available for rheumatoid arthritis patients, and that the drug will be adequately supplied in countries where it is approved.

Baricitinib Reduces Covid-19 Recovery Time
According to an AFP tally, Israel is second only to Bahrain for the world's highest coronavirus infection rate by population Photo: AFP / EMMANUEL DUNAND

Baricitinib is an inhibitor that is licensed to Eli Lilly, approved for the treatment of adults suffering from moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis in more than 70 countries. Aside from baricitinib, other drugs under Lilly are also being studied to understand its potential of treating COVID-19. The pharma revealed that it is collaborating with two other partner companies in efforts to find more novel antibody treatments for coronavirus.