Pfizer’s arthritis drug can cut death risk in severe Covid patients

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COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo Credit: Twitter)

An arthritis drug — Tofacitinib — developed by US biopharmaceutical Pfizer has shown to be effective in reducing the risk of death or respiratory failure in hospitalised adult patients with Covid-19 pneumonia who were not on ventilation, according to a study.

Tofacitinib belongs to a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors. It is approved in the US to treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ulcerative colitis.

The efficacy of Tofacitinib was tested on 289 patients hospitalised with severe Covid across 15 locations in Brazil. Half of these patients received 10 mg twice daily plus standard of care which includes glucocorticoids, while the other half were prescribed placebo twice daily plus standard of care for up to 14 days.

The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that after 28 days, tofacitinib lowered the death or respiratory failure by 63 per cent. Among patients on tofacitinib, only 18.1 per cent had the incidence of death or respiratory failure compared to placebo (29 per cent).

Deaths in the tofacitinib group occurred in 2.8 per cent of patients and in 5.5 per cent of those in the placebo group.

Serious side effects occurred in 14.1 percent in the tofacitinib group and in 12 percent in the placebo group.

“We are encouraged by the initial findings of our randomized trial of tofacitinib in patients hospitalised with Covid-19 pneumonia,” said Otavio Berwanger, Director of the Academic Research Organisation, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, which coordinated the trial in collaboration with Pfizer.

“These results provide new information which indicates that the use of tofacitinib when added to standard of care, which includes glucocorticoids, may further reduce the risk of death or respiratory failure in this patient population,” Berwanger added.

However, it is important to note that tofacitinib has not been approved or authorised for use by any regulatory authority worldwide for the treatment of Covid-19 and tofacitinib should not be used in patients with an active serious infection, the researchers said.

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