Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. (NYSE: LLY) says it is starting to see positive results in clinical trials in the fight against COVID-19 by using one of its drugs already approved for rheumatoid arthritis.
The company says it is seeing shorter hospital stays in patients who are treated with its RA medication baricitinib in conjunction with remdesivir in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.
Lilly said the combination of the two medications has shortened by one day the recovery time for hospitalized patients.
Gilead Sciences, which manufactures the antiviral medication remdesivir, is conducting its own COVID-19 study evaluating the efficacy of its drug, as a standalone treatment. Gilead said the results show a reduced recovery time by an average of four days.
The Lilly study, which is being conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious, includes more than 1,000 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19. Lilly entered into the double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial in May 2020.
“I think we’ve made a huge step compared to where we were in just the month of March,” said Patrik Jonsson, Lilly senior vice president and president of Lilly Bio-Medicines.
Baricitinib is marketed commercially as Olumiant and is used to treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Lilly licensed the medication from Delaware-based pharmaceutical Incyte Corp. (Nasdaq: INCY)
The company said the one-day reduction in median recovery time is “statistically significant.”
“There is an urgent need to identify COVID-19 treatments, and we will continue to work with NIAID to understand these data and next steps on baricitinib’s role moving forward,” said Jonsson in a news release. “We appreciate NIAID selecting baricitinib for inclusion in this important study and the participants, investigators and collaborators for the vital roles they played.”
Lilly defines recovery as a participant being well enough for hospital discharge, meaning the participant either no longer required supplemental oxygen or ongoing medical care in the hospital.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already issued an Emergency Use Authorization for remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19.
Jonsson said based on the new findings, Lilly plans to discuss with the FDA the potential for an EUA.
If authorized for use, Lilly will propose that baricitinib be available through commercial channels.
Last week, Jonsson was named president of Lilly USA. The promotion is effective October 1.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Lilly Bio-Medicines President Patrik Jonsson explained how scientific discovery has resulted in tangible results.