Eli Lilly drug to be tested on COVID-19 patients despite safety warning

An Eli Lilly drug designed to treat rheumatoid arthritis that has a warning label saying it can make infections worse will be tested on patients with COVID-19 infections, The New York Times reported.  

The drug, called baricitinib, will be used in the next phase of a federal trial led by the National Institutes of Health to find a treatment for COVID-19. 

Though the drug can make infections worse, it suppresses the immune system, which suggests it could suppress a cytokine storm, an immune system overreaction seen in some severely ill COVID-19 patients. 

Executives at Eli Lilly told the Times they were skeptical about the drug's use to treat COVID-19. 

"Our initial reaction was, 'Does it make sense to immunosuppress when patients are trying to fight off an infection?" Dan Skovronsky, chief scientific officer at Eli Lilly, told the Times

Patrick Jonsson, president of biomedicines at Eli Lilly, told the Times the drugmaker is "extremely cautious" about using the drug to treat COVID-19 and said "We cannot encourage use." 

Andre Kalil, MD, a principal investigator in the trial, said physicians and patients should not use baricitinib until the results of the federal trial come out, which should be in a couple of months. 

Read the full article here.

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