In its latest study, Pfizer found its rheumatoid arthritis drug is effective in Covid-19 patients suffering from respiratory illness.
Pfizer Inc said on Wednesday its oral rheumatoid arthritis medicine “Xeljanz” proved effective in reducing death or respiratory failure cases in hospitalised Covid-19 patients with pneumonia, based on a study conducted in Brazil.
The pharmaceutical giant conducted a 28-day STOP-COVID study in collaboration with The Academic Research Organizsation (ARO) from the Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein, which showed positive findings after testing the drug on 289 hospitalised adult patients with respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus.
The study results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that death cases or respiratory failure were 18.1% for patients treated with the drug compared to 29% on placebos.
However, Xeljanz, which belongs to a class of drugs called JAK inhibitors, has not yet been approved or authorised for use by regulatory authorities in any country for the treatment of Covid-19. Reports also say tofacitinib should not be given to patients with a serious and active infection.
Among the serious effects of the drug could be deep vein thrombosis, acute myocardial infarction, ventricular tachycardia, and myocarditis.
The report showed that these occurred in one patient each in the tofacitinib group, however one patient each in the placebo group experienced hemorrhagic stroke and cardiogenic shock.
Only 20 participants in the study experienced serious side-effects when treated with the drug, whereas 17 patients of the second category developed serious symptoms.
Death cases where 2.8% of patients given tofacitinib, while the death rate was 5.5% in the placebo group.
“We are encouraged by the initial findings of our randomised trial of tofacitinib in patients hospitalised with Covid-19 pneumonia,” said Otavio Berwanger, Director of the Academic Research Organization, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein.
“These results provide new information which indicates that the use of tofacitinib when added to standard of care, which includes glucocorticoids, may further reduce the risk of death or respiratory failure in this patient population,” Berwanger added.
“The study builds on the hypothesis that JAK inhibition could mitigate systemic and alveolar inflammation in patients with Covid-19-related pneumonia,” he added.
Tamas Koncz, Chief Medical Officer at Pfizer Inflammation & Immunology said: “To effectively combat the Covid-19 pandemic, there remains a critical need for multiple therapeutic options to treat patients who have contracted the virus”.
“As outlined in Pfizer’s five-point plan at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are keenly focused on working across the healthcare ecosystem with partners like Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein. We look forward to our continued collaboration as we analyse the full dataset from this study and assess next steps,” he added.