2-drug treatment helpful for coronavirus, study finds

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A vending machine displays personal protection equipment for sale to air travelers at Love Field Airport in Dallas. The coronavirus already raged across the nation before Thanksgiving, threatening to swamp hospitals. It has picked up steam since, setting new records for daily cases. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

BOSTON — Doctors are reporting that a two-drug treatment is especially helpful for COVID-19 patients who need extra oxygen.

Adding the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib to the antiviral medicine remdesivir helped these patients recover eight days sooner, in 10 days on average versus 18 for those given remdesivir alone, according to a study.

The medicines have been recommended since September, when early results from this U.S. government-sponsored study suggested the combination shortened recovery time for hospitalized patients by one day.

Full results published Friday by the New England Journal of Medicine show the benefit was even greater for those needing oxygen or other respiratory support short of a breathing machine. Serious side effects and new infections also were fewer in the combo treatment group.

The study involved more than 1,000 COVID-19 patients. All were given Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir, sold as Veklury, and half also received baricitinib, a drug Eli Lilly sells as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the less common form of arthritis that occurs when a mistaken or overreacting immune system attacks joints, causing inflammation. An overactive immune system also can lead to serious problems in some coronavirus patients.

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