Arthritis drug may improve COVID-19 survival in older adults
Written by Timothy Huzar on November 18, 2020 — Fact checked by Alexandra Sanfins, Ph.D.
Scientists discover that a drug used to treat arthritis shows promising initial results for treating COVID-19 in older adults.
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An international team of scientists has found that the arthritis drug baricitinib shows promise for increasing the survival of older adults with COVID-19.
The new research, appearing in the journal Science Advances, lays the groundwork for larger, randomized controlled trials to confirm the initial findings.
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Alongside developing an effective and safe vaccine for SARS-CoV-2, scientists are also identifying potential treatments that may help increase the survival chances of people who develop COVID-19.
To do this quickly, scientists have turned to previously available drugs, looking to repurpose them as COVID-19 treatments. Since these medicines already have approval for use, many of the safety tests involved in the development of a novel drug are not required.
However, this is still no small task. There are thousands of potential drugs to search through when identifying those that may be worth testing.
To speed up the process, scientists used artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can rapidly analyze these medicines and determine if they could be effective COVID-19 treatments.
One such drug that artificial intelligence software identified in February 2020 was baricitinib, a medication for adult rheumatoid arthritis.
The software identified this drug because it had two potential mechanisms of action. The first might reduce inflammation, while the second might make it more difficult for the virus to access a person’s cells.
Since these initial findings, baricitinib has been used in clinical settings to treat COVID-19. The scientists behind the present study drew on this initial clinical data and conducted laboratory tests to determine how effective the drug may be as a treatment.