The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a recommendation in favor of the use of the drug baricitinib in combination with corticosteroids for the treatment of seriously ill patients with COVID-19.
This recommendation is based on the evidence obtained and showing that this product improves the chance of surviving complications what can cause COVID-19 and reduces the need for mechanical ventilation, according to a statement issued by the organization. Baricitinib has not been found to cause adverse effects in research and trials.
civil humanitarian organization Doctors without borders (MSF), which has provided aid in personnel and equipment to the countries most in need during the pandemic, has reacted to the new WHO recommendation asking governments to do what is necessary to that patents are not an obstacle for access to this treatment.
Baricitinib is a drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and its usefulness to treat critical cases of COVID-19 is similar to that of another similar drug, the interleukin-6.
The WHO has stated that when both are available, one or the other should be used. depending on which is cheaper and on which there is more clinical information. Instead he has discouraged the use of two other medicines of a similar category –ruxolitinib and tofacitinib– because the few trials that have been done with them did not show benefits for patients and in the case of tofacitinib it was even observed that it could cause serious side effects.
These recommendations come from the results of seven trials involving 4,000 patients with moderate, severe and severe COVID.
Meanwhile, MSF has indicated in a statement that baricitinib has generic versions which can be purchased in India and Bangladesh at prices much lower than those charged by their original producer, the American company Eli Lilly.
According to the humanitarian organization, this drug can be purchased at $6.7 in Bangladesh and $5.5 in India for a complete treatment in cases of COVID-19 (4 mg daily for fourteen days), while Eli Lilly has it at a price of $2,326 per treatment.
“However, in many countries, generic baricitinib is not available because it is under a patent monopoly, with Eli Lilly having applied for and obtained patents in many places, including countries hard hit by the pandemic, such as Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia and Russia,” said the NGO.