UNMC Study: Combining Remdesivir With Arthritis Drug More Effectively Treats COVID-19

Dec. 15, 2020, 6:45 a.m. ·

Dr. Andre Kalil (Courtesy: UNMC)

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A recent clinical trial at the University of Nebraska Medical Center finds the antiviral drug remdesivir is even more effective at treating COVID-19 when combined with another drug.

UNMC has been part of the clinical trials for remdesivir since the beginning. The studies helped get the drug FDA approval for some COVID-19 patients: those hospitalized with the virus, but not on a ventilator.

Dr. Andre Kalil has led the studies at UNMC and is the lead author on the study findings recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

He says this phase of the trial looked at remdesivir combined with baricitinib, an arthritis drug that works in the immune system.

"Our immunological response, our defense response, sometimes can get very intense, very difficult to control," Dr. Kalil said. "And sometimes that response itself can cause harm."

Patients who got both remdesivir and baricitinib were less likely to need a ventilator and recovered from the infection faster than patients who got remdesivir alone.

And the benefits are even greater for patients on supplemental oxygen: they were able to leave the hospital a full week earlier, on average.

Dr. Kalil says even with a COVID-19 vaccine being distributed this week, treatments for the disease are still a top priority.

"First of all we’ll need treatments because the vaccine is going to take a while to really prevent all the spread of the infection, so we’re still going to have people that will need to be treated," Dr. Kalil said. "And after the pandemic is gone we’re going to need to be prepared for other pandemics and other outbreaks, and I think all these treatments will help us to be more efficient for the future as well."

The next phase of the trial is already in progress, comparing baricitinib with another immune system drug to see which is more effective.