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Arthritis drugs used in new coronavirus treatment trial

Arthritis drugs will be used in a new coronavirus trial
Jess Glass, Press Association

Drugs used to treat conditions including rheumatoid arthritis will be tested as potential treatments in a Covid-19 trial.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham announced on Wednesday that four drugs will be used as part of their Catalyst trial into therapeutics for patients with the virus.

The trial will use drugs that are on the market or are in late stages of clinical trials to treat hospitalised patients with Covid-19, in the hope they can prevent them from needing intensive care.

The first drug in the research is Namilumab, produced by the Oxford-based Izana Bioscience, which is in late-stage trials for use for rheumatoid arthritis and the inflammatory disease ankylosing spondylitis.

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The drug targets substances called cytokines which are naturally released by immune cells but can cause damage during an over-reaction of the immune system known as a cytokine storm.

These substances are believed to be a key factor in the excessive and potentially dangerous lung inflammation seen in some Covid-19 patients.

The second drug is Infliximab, developed by Slough-based Celltrion Healthcare UK, and is an anti-tumour necrosis therapy.

It is currently used to treat inflammatory and autoimmune conditions including rheumatoid arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

The other two drugs to be used in the trial will be announced at a later date.

Researchers hope that by targeting some of the most serious symptoms of Covid-19, the severity of the disease could be reduced leading to a fall in deaths.

Researchers at the University of Birmingham are testing four different drugs which could be used to treat coronavirus

Dr Ben Fisher, co-clinical investigator of the Catalyst trial, said: "Emerging evidence is demonstrating a critical role for anti-inflammatory drugs in the cytokine storm associated with severe Covid-19 infection.

"In the Catalyst study, we hope to show with a single dose of these kinds of drugs in hospitalised patients that we are able to delay or prevent the rapid deterioration into intensive care and requirement for invasive ventilation in this critical patient group."

Up to 40 Covid-19 patients will be recruited to each part of the trial and will be randomly selected to either receive standard treatment alone or treatment with the addition of one of the four drugs.

The trial has been designed by the inflammation - advanced and cell therapy trials Team at the University of Birmingham's Cancer Research UK clinical trials unit.

In addition to the team at the university, the trial is being conducted with University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, as well as teams from Oxford University and University College London.

Recruitment for patients has started in Oxford and Birmingham.

If a drug is found to be successful, the trial will be expanded for further testing on a national level.

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