Arthritis drug ‘reduces elderly COVID-19 deaths by two-thirds’ – Scientific News

The Daily Pill, first identified as a potential COVID game changer by a British company, reduces deaths by 71 percent in people with moderate or severe illness, researchers said, the Daily Mail said.

Importantly, it works in the elderly and gives hope that it will save the most vulnerable.

It’s called baricitinib and it’s marketed under the brand name Olumiant. It’s a relatively new rheumatoid arthritis drug that has only been available for three years.

But in February, it was identified as a strong candidate to help treat what was then the new threat of COVID-19.

The drug was selected by London-based BenevolentAI, which examined thousands of existing drugs for signs that they could fight COVID.

The artificial intelligence program predicted that baricitinib would “reduce the virus’s ability to infect lung cells.”

Now the idea has been validated with pan-European researchers, led by Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, who reported that baricitinib reduces the death rate among those hospitalized with the disease by two-thirds.

The development came as:

  • Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline told The Mail on Sunday that it has already made “millions of doses” of a vaccine and hopes it will be available alongside another vaccine developed by Pfizer early next year;
  • An additional 26,860 COVID cases were recorded yesterday – a week-over-week increase of 7.6 percent – along with 462 deaths within 28 days of a positive test;
  • Professor Susan Michie, a member of the government’s Emergency Scientific Advisory Group, urged the public to redouble their efforts so that they “would be able” to spend Christmas with loved ones;
  • Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that England had seen a 4 percent increase in daily infections in the first week of November, suggesting that their spread slowed;
  • British Airways and Virgin Atlantic bosses called for passengers to be tested before leaving the UK, rather than being quarantined two weeks after returning.

Last night, NHS cancer specialist Professor Justin Stebbing of Imperial College London predicted that baricitinib would help save thousands of lives. He said, ‘The history of treatments for COVID has not left many drugs. What has remained are two drugs discovered in England. ‘

The other is the steroid dexamethasone, which has been found to reduce the risk of death by 33 percent in critically ill COVID patients.

The results, in the journal Science Advances, come from patients hospitalized with COVID-19 pneumonia in two hospitals, in Italy and Spain.

Professor Volker Lauschke, of de Karolinska, who led the study, said: “These results are especially encouraging given that the study included a large cohort of elderly patients, a group that was often excluded.”

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