Adding baricitinib to remdesivir improves recovery time in patients with COVID-19.
On 19 November, 2020, the FDA gave emergency use authorisation for the baricitinib combination therapy to be used in patients hospitalised with either confirmed or suspected COVID-19, from 2 years of age and who require mechanical ventilation, supplemental oxygen or extracorporeal membrane oxygenation.
The approval is based on preliminary results from the ACCT-2 trial, which compared the recovery time in patients receiving either remdesivir alone or in combination with the JAK STAT inhibitor, baricitinib at a dose of 4mg. Remdesivir is already approved by the FDA as an antiviral drug for hospitalised COVID-19 patients, aged 12 years and over. Baricitinib is currently only licensed for use in rheumatoid arthritis but since the drug blocks the JAK-STAT intracellular messaging system, which is an important inflammatory pathway, there was a potential benefit from combining the two drugs. ACCT-2 was a Phase III trial that enrolled 1033 participants, who were randomised to either intravenous remdesivir alone plus matching placebo (518) or oral baricitinib (515). Remdesivir was given as a loading dose of 200mg, followed by 100 mg daily while in hospital, for up to 10 days. Baricitinib was given at a dose of 4mg per day and limited to a maximum of 14 days. All patients were assessed daily and if discharged, they were followed-up at home on days 15, 22 and at the study endpoint, day 29. Recovery from COVID-19 was defined as either being discharged from hospital, no longer requiring supplemental oxygen or needing ongoing medical care.
Preliminary data published from the trial showed that the median time to recovery with remdesivir and baricitinib was one day shorter (7 vs 8 days) than using remdesivir alone and this difference was statistically significant. In addition, the odds of a clinical improvement at day 15 using the combined therapy was also found to be significantly lower. Under the emergency use authorisation, the manufacturer of baricitinib, Eli Lilly, is required to provide both health professionals and patients, fact sheets which include information on dosing, side-effects and drug interactions. The full results of the ACCT-2 trial will be published in due course.