A life-saving drug, typically used to treat arthritis, is now available to treat hospitalised COVID-19 patients

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The NHS is rolling out a life-saving COVID-19 treatment, which has been proven to save lives when given to seriously ill COVID patients in hospital.

Combination therapy beneficial to seriously ill patients

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

The RECOVERY trial carried out through the NHS found that 13% fewer severely ill patients died of COVID when treated with arthritis drug baricitinib compared to existing treatment options.

Baricitinib is the latest in an armoury of COVID-19 treatments that the NHS has at its disposal, which now includes three repurposed arthritis drugs—with baricitinib joining tocilizumab and sarilumab—that have treated more than 32,000 of the most severely ill COVID patients in hospital.

These arthritis drugs work by reducing inflammation caused by COVID-19 by blocking signals to the immune system that are causing it to attack the body. Baricitinib can be used to supplement other COVID treatments in patients aged 2 years and over.

‘Another life-saving treatment option’

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’.

NHS Medical Director, Professor Steve Powis, said: ‘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.

‘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.’

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