Baricitinib, a drug typically used to treat arthritis, will now be available to seriously ill Covid patients in NHS hospitals.

The roll out comes after data from the RECOVERY trial showed that baricitinib reduced the mortality rate of severely ill Covid patients by 13% compared to other treatment options.

Arthritis drugs have been used to treat more than 30,000 Covid patients

The drug is one of three repurposed arthritis drugs, with baricitinib joining tocilizumab and sarilumab. In total, the NHS estimate that the drugs have treated more than 32,000 patients hospitalised with Covid.

Typically, the drugs are used to reduce pain and inflammation, and work by blocking signals to the immune system that are causing it to attack the body.

Patients will be given a daily dose of baricitinib for 10 days, or until they are discharged from hospital, depending on which comes first.

The drug is the seventh Covid treatment option approved for use on the NHS, and will be used to treat hospitalised patients in line with MHRA guidance.

Another “life-saving treatment option” that “strengthens our defence against Covid-19”

NHS Medical Director Professor Steve Powis said: “The more effective Covid treatments within the NHS arsenal, the more options doctors have to help patients who become seriously ill with Covid, preventing hospital admissions and saving lives.

“This is the fourth drug that has been fast-tracked for use on the NHS thanks to the world-leading RECOVERY trial and is just as important because it gives our hard-working clinicians another life-saving treatment option and strengthens our defence against Covid-19.

“Finding ways to beat Covid has showcased the very best of the NHS’s power to find creative and innovative ways to care for patients and implement new treatments, which includes in this case successfully repurposing an existing drug to treat a deadly virus”.

“Vital” that randomised trials continue so that new treatment options are identified

Sir Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford Population Health, and Joint Chief Investigator for RECOVERY, said the team is “delighted” that another treatment option has been identified for patients hospitalised with Covid.

He added that it is “vital” randomised trials continue so that new treatment options are identified, as while the vaccines are effective, Covid is still associated with poor outcomes.