Baricitinib drug

NHS rolls out new life-saving Covid treatment

The NHS is launching a new cutting-edge treatment, which is clinically proven to save the lives of the most seriously ill Covid patients.

The drug, called baricitinib, is typically used to arrest the effects of arthritis but a recent RECOVERY trial showed that 13% fewer severely ill Covid patients died when given the new treatment, compared to any of the existing treatment options.

The drug works by blocking signals to the immune system by reducing inflammation, which subsequently stops the body from attacking itself. Baricitinib is the third arthritis drug to be repurposed as a Covid treatment, with tocilizumab and sarilumab having already benefitted over 32,000 Covid patients.

This comes as the latest successful attempt at using existing drugs laterally across the NHS, in another world-leading innovation.

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.”

He added: “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.”

He concluded: “Finding ways to beat Covid has showcased the very best of the NHS’s power to find creative and innovative ways to care for patients and implement new treatments, which includes in this case successfully repurposing an existing drug to treat a deadly virus.”

The RECOVERY trial was conducted by the NHS and the University of Oxford and found amongst the approximately 4,000 severely ill patients that were given baricitinib, there was a 13% reduction in deaths.

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)."

He added: “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.”

Baricitinib will further reinforce the NHS’s armoury in their relentless bid to tackle the Coronavirus and comes as the latest edition to their long line of innovations, shaping modern healthcare globally.

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “It is fantastic that NHS patients are now able to access this highly effective treatment for Covid. Our world-leading national effort to identify new drugs to treat this virus continues as we add this game-changing medicine, baricitinib, to our arsenal. As we live with the virus, having access to a growing number of treatments – alongside our lifesaving vaccination programme – is absolutely vital.”

More information on the new drug can be found here.

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NHE May/June 2024

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