By CBSMiami.com Team

GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – Researchers at University of Florida Health found that by combining an anti-inflammatory drug with an antiviral drug they were able to accelerate improvement and reduce recovery time in COVID-19 patients.

Their study found that patients were who giving a combination of the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib and the antiviral drug remdesivir while receiving high flow oxygen or noninvasive ventilation had a recovery time of 10 days, compared with 18 days for patients receiving only remdesivir.

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Researchers also found fewer adverse effects in patients receiving the combination treatment.

The first trial of the study began in May and established remdesivir as a successful treatment for hospitalized adult patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Remdesivir works against the disease by preventing the virus from multiplying, but some of those in the study had an abnormal inflammatory response.

“Exhibiting a response to fight off infection is a good thing, but for some people, it’s way too much. Our goal was to stave off that hyper-inflammatory response triggered by cytokines,” said Dr. Nicole M. Iovine, UF Health chief epidemiologist and co-author of the study.

Enter baricitinib which is commonly used as an anti-inflammatory treatment for those affected by rheumatoid arthritis.

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“There was a precedent for trying baricitinib,” Iovine said. “We use powerful anti-inflammatory drugs all the time for a number of other infections. A major theme of adaptive treatment trials is to find useful therapeutic agents quickly. The drugs chosen need to be ones that have already been studied, like remdesivir as a treatment for Ebola. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

Baricitinib blocks the activity of certain proteins and enzymes and interferes with the pathway leading to inflammation.

“We know very clearly how it works on a molecular level to reduce inflammatory cytokines associated with severe COVID-19,” Iovine said.

The second phase of the clinical trial included 30 UF Health patients more than a thousand COVID-19 hospitalized adults across the country.

Study results revealed that baricitinib plus remdesivir led to better patient outcomes than remdesivir alone.

As positive results of the clinical trials began emerging, on November 19th the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for baricitinib in combination with remdesivir for adults and pediatric COVID-19 patients 2 years of age and older requiring supplemental oxygen or invasive mechanical ventilation.

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(©2021 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. University of Florida Health’s Kelly Sobers contributed to this report.)

CBSMiami.com Team