Olumiant (baricitinib), an anti-inflammatory medication from Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY), is effective for reducing lung inflammation in COVID-19 patients when administered early after infection, according to a peer-reviewed study published in Cell.
A NIAID-backed clinical trial known as the Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial (ACTT-4) is testing baricitinib alongside the common steroid dexamethasone. The trial began in November.
A related trial, ACTT-2, led to FDA granting baricitinib emergency use authorization when used in conjunction with remdesivir in hospitalized COVID-19 patients requiring oxygen.
Olumiant, which FDA approved in 2018, is a rheumatoid arthritis treatment.
In related news, a separate group of researchers recently found that the antibiotic azithromycin was not effective in patients with severe COVID-19 infections.
The NIAID-sponsored study also concluded that rhesus monkeys provide a valid model for COVID-19 research because they respond to the novel coronavirus in much the same way as humans.
The researchers used 16 rhesus macaques as test subjects in the study, randomizing eight into a placebo group and the remaining eight into a baricitinib group.
In the treatment group, the monkeys exhibited reduced inflammation and less-severe infections than the placebo group.
“Remarkably, the animals we treated with baricitinib rapidly suppressed the processes responsible for inducing lung inflammation, thus elevating baricitinib for consideration as a frontline treatment for COVID-19 and providing insights on the way the drug works and its effectiveness,” said Mirko Paiardini, an associate professor at the Emory Vaccine Center, in prepared remarks.