By Josephine Mason and Kate Kelland
LONDON, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Oxford University said on
Wednesday it would study whether the world's best-selling
prescription medicine, adalimumab, was an effective treatment
for COVID-19 patients - the latest effort to repurpose existing
drugs as potential coronavirus therapies.
Adalimumab, which is sold under the brand name Humira by
AbbVie, is a type of anti-inflammatory known as an
anti-tumour necrosis factor (anti-TNF) drug. Recent studies have
shown that COVID-19 patients already taking anti-TNF drugs for
inflammatory bowel disease and inflammatory arthritis are less
likely to be admitted to hospital, Oxford said in a statement.
Oxford's trial, called AVID-CC, will be aimed at treating
people in the community, especially in care homes, the
university said. It will enrol up to 750 patients from community
care settings throughout Britain.
Humira is used to treat a range of conditions including
rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and
The availability of biosimilar versions of the medicine
would make it affordable and accessible if the trial is
successful, Oxford said. Novartis makes one of the
Research has identified some treatments for hospitalised
COVID-19 patients, including Gilead's remdesivir as
well as the generic steroid drug dexamethasone.
Researchers have also studied other anti-inflammatory drugs
for treating COVID-19. Severe infections are
believed to be triggered by an over-reaction of the immune
system, known as a cytokine storm, and drugs that suppress
certain elements of the immune system can play a role in
arresting a rapid escalation of symptoms.
But there are as yet no effective therapies for people who
are not admitted to hospital.
Care homes were particularly hard hit by the first wave of
COVID-19 in the UK and other countries. If Humira were
successful against COVID-19, this could help some older people
who are some of most vulnerable, it said, at a time when
governments are struggling to contain the pandemic.
The Oxford study is funded by the COVID-19 Therapeutics
Accelerator initiative set up by global health charity Wellcome,
as well as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Mastercard.
(Reporting by Josephine Mason and Kate Kelland in London and
John Miller in Zurich
Editing by Mark Heinrich)