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New Study Finds Arthritis Drug May Aid COVID Recovery

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A drug company says that adding an anti-inflammatory medicine to a drug already widely used for hospitalized COVID-19 patients shortens their time to recovery by an additional day.

Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical company, announced the results Monday from a 1,000-person study sponsored by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

The results have not been published or reviewed yet by independent scientists.

The study tested baricitinib, a pill that Indianapolis-based Lilly already sells as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the less common form of arthritis that occurs when a mistaken or overreacting immune system attacks joints, causing inflammation.

An overactive immune system also can lead to serious problems in coronavirus patients.

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All study participants received remdesivir, a Gilead Sciences drug previously shown to reduce the time to recovery.

The participants were defined as being well enough to leave the hospital by four days on average.

Those who were given baricitinib in on top of it recovered one day sooner than those given remdesivir alone, Lilly said.

Do you think the emergency use of baricitinib for hospitalized COVID-19 patients should be approved?

The company said it planned to discuss with regulators the possible emergency use of baricitinib for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

It would be important to know how many study participants also received steroid drugs, which have been shown in other research to lower the risk of death for severely ill, hospitalized COVID-19 patients, said Dr. Jesse Goodman.

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Goodman is a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration chief scientist who is now at Georgetown University and had no role in the study.

Figuring out how to best use the various drugs shown to help “is something we’re going to have to work at,” he said.

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The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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