Third coronavirus drug approved for use in Japan

NHK -- May 11
Japan's health ministry has approved the use of a rheumatoid arthritis drug, baricitinib, for treating COVID-19 patients. It's the third coronavirus drug to be approved in the country, following remdesivir and dexamethasone.

Baricitinib helps subdue inflammation resulting from immune disorders. It is already used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and atopic dermatitis.

In November last year, the US Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use approval for the drug in combination with antiviral drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19 patients.

Eli Lilly Japan, which manufactures and sells the drug in the country, told an online news conference on Monday that baricitinib has already been administered to more than 200,000 COVID-19 patients around the world.

The firm said it hopes the drug will be used to treat between 4,500 to 6,000 people in Japan by the end of March next year.

Only adult patients who need supplemental oxygen because of pneumonia are eligible to receive the drug. It will be used in combination with the antiviral drug remdesivir, and will be administered once a day.

The drug is not approved for pregnant women.

Eli Lilly Japan says using baricitinib along with remdesivir speeded up recovery by one day on average in international clinical tests, compared with the remdesivir-only control group.