COVID: New life-saving drug has been identified by UK experts

The drug is normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and is believed to reduce COVID-death risks by about a fifth.

COVID in the UK
© Getty/ Morsa Images
COVID in the UK

The National Health Service may soon recommend a new medication for the treatment of COVID. This is based on results from trials that suggest that an arthritis medication could cut death risk by about a fifth in patients with severe Covid.

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Saving more lives

Experts from the UK say the anti-inflammatory baricitinib normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, can be used with other COVID treatments to save more lives. Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said:

A big thank you to all the researchers, doctors and volunteers involved in this work. Our medical and scientific experts will now consider the results before any decisions are made on next steps.

The price of a 10-day course of the medication costs approximately £250. However, the NHS may negotiate a discount once it formally approves its use.

Although vaccines have been shown to reduce infections and protect lives, some people still contract COVID, becoming very sick or dying from the virus. There are ongoing tests and trials to determine the efficacy of existing medications on patients.

Through the trials, dubbed Recovery trial and led by researchers at the Oxford University, it appears some very ill COVID patients, including those on ventilators, fare much better if they receive baricitinib.

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COVID success story

Recovery trial joint chief investigator Sir Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology, at Oxford Population Health, said:

It is now well established that in people admitted to hospital because of severe Covid, an overactive immune response is a key driver of lung damage. [...] This opens up the possibility of using combinations of anti-inflammatory drugs to further drive down the risk of death for some of the sickest patients.

With more than 47,000 participants across the UK, Recovery trials work is the biggest study of COVID treatments in the world. The treatments it has discovered have saved countless lives including that of Mark Rivvers, 51, from Cambridge, who was enrolled on the trial.

I was in hospital for almost a month, mostly in an intensive-care unit. But I saw it as my duty to take part in the Recovery trial because I knew that no matter what happened to me, I was doing something positive to help others. I'm really pleased about the result with baricitinib and hope that it can now be used to benefit many others.
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