Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have teamed up to see how well remdesivir, a drug already approved for COVID-19 treatment, works with an anti-inflammatory drug known as baricitinib against the virus.
Preliminary results from clinical trials with remdesivir have shown that the drug is able to reduce recovery times from COVID-19 from 15 days to 11 days. Of the 1,063 patients involved in that trial, 91 were from either Montefiore or Einstein hospitals.
Expanding on these results, doctors and researchers between these hospitals are studying whether remdesivir in combination with baricitinib can yield even better results. Baricitinib is so far known for reducing inflammation linked to rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers' goal is to determine whether the drug, when taken with remdesivir, reduces or prevents cytokine storms (excessive inflammation), which can overwhelm a patient's lungs and other organs, eventually leading to death.
To do so, they are conducting a placebo-controlled, double-blind, randomized trial for the drug combination. Patients selected for the trial should be hospitalized with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis and lung complications, including abnormal chest X-rays, pneumonia, and need of a mechanical ventilator to breathe. While all patients will receive remdesivir intravenously for up to 10 days, half of the patients will be given baricitinib by mouth, and the other half an identical placebo, for up to two weeks.
"What concerns us is that in some people the immune response to coronavirus can be more deadly than the infection itself, and there is no known treatment for this yet," says Barry Zingman, one of the study's authors also involved in the original remdesivir study.
"Including baricitinib in our trial may reduce COVID-19-related inflammation and combining baricitinib with remdesivir may yield an even more effective treatment option for people most severely affected by this illness."