Eli Lilly has announced plans to conduct a clinical trial of rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib (Olumiant) for the treatment of patients with Covid-19.

The company signed an agreement with the National Institutes of Health (NIH)’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to add a baricitinib arm in NIAID’s Adaptive COVID-19 Treatment Trial.

Set to launch in the US next month, the study will assess the drug’s safety and efficacy in hospitalised patients.

Lilly also intends to add sites in other markets, including Europe and Asia. Study data is expected to be available in the coming two months.

Baricitinib is an oral JAK1/JAK2 inhibitor with approvals in more than 65 countries to treat adults with moderately to severely active rheumatoid arthritis.

The drug’s anti-inflammatory activity is expected to act on the inflammatory cascade associated with Covid-19.

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In addition to baricitinib, the company will study its experimental anti-Angiopoietin 2 monoclonal antibody named LY3127804 in a Phase II trial involving pneumonia patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

The trial, scheduled to commence in the US this month, will enrol patients at high risk of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

It is designed to monitor LY3127804’s ability to mitigate the progression to ARDS or the requirement for mechanical ventilation.

Lilly Research Laboratories chief scientific officer and president Daniel Skovronsky said: “Lilly is moving at top speed and using all available resources to help fight this pandemic. Developing potential therapeutic medicines for COVID-19 is part of our vital and humanitarian mission.

“To be successful, we must combine resources, data and expertise, with government, academia and other companies. We look forward to seeing the results of baricitinib and anti-Ang2 clinical studies.”

Currently, the coronavirus pandemic has not impacted the availability of any of Lilly’s medicines, including baricitinib, said the company.

Last month, the company announced that it will delay its clinical trial activities in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.