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, sold by AbbVie under the brand name Humira, 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The 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 the UK.
The availability of biosimilar versions of the medicine, used for over two decades as an anti-flammatory, would make it affordable and accessible if the trial is successful, it said.
Research has identified some treatments for hospitalised COVID-19 patients, including Gilead's remdesivir as well as the generic steroid drug dexamethasone.
But there are not yet 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.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.