Oxford University said Wednesday it would investigate whether the world‘s best-selling prescription drug, adalimumab, would be an effective treatment for COVID-19 patients – recent efforts to use existing drugs as potential coronavirus therapies.
Adalimumab, sold by AbbVie under the brand name Humira, is an anti-inflammatory type known as an anti-tumor necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drug. Recent studies have shown that COVID-19 patients who are already taking anti-TNF drugs for inflammatory bowel disease and inflammatory arthritis are less likely to be hospitalized, according to a statement from Oxford.
The Oxford process, called AVID-CC, is intended to target treatment of people in the community, particularly in nursing homes, the university said. Up to 750 patients will be admitted from community care facilities across the UK.
Humira is used to treat a number of conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and psoriasis.
The availability of biosimilar versions of the drug would make it affordable and accessible if the study is successful, Oxford said. Novartis makes one of the alternatives, Hyrimoz.
Research has identified some treatments for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including Gilead’s remdesivir as well as the generic steroid dexamethasone.
Researchers have also looked at other anti-inflammatory drugs to treat COVID-19. Serious infections are thought to be caused by an immune system overreaction known as a cytokine storm, and drugs that suppress certain elements of the immune system can play a role in containing symptoms from rapidly escalating.
However, there are still no effective therapies for people who are not hospitalized.
Nursing homes were particularly hard hit by the first wave of COVID-19 in the UK and other countries. If Humira were successful against COVID-19, it could help some elderly people who are among the most at risk at a time when governments are struggling to contain the pandemic.
The Oxford study is funded by the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Initiative, launched by the global health organization Wellcome, as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard.
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