By Colin Kellaher


A late-stage study led by the National Institutes of Health to determine whether drugs used for controlling the immune system could be used to treat hospitalized Covid-19 patients found that blockbuster drugs from Bristol Myers Squibb Co. and Johnson & Johnson helped significantly improve survival rates.

The study found that J&J's Remicade and Bristol's Orencia, widely used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, didn't significantly shorten the time to recovery but substantially improved clinical status and reduced the number of deaths.

According to the NIH, patients receiving each drug showed a strong but not statistically significant improvement in the primary endpoint of time to recovery versus placebo, as measured by day of discharge from hospital.

However, the NIH said patients in the Remicade group had 40.5% lower adjusted odds of dying and 43.8% better odds of clinical improvement than those in the placebo group, while those in the Orencia group had 37.4% lower adjusted odds of dying and 34.2% better odds of clinical improvement.

Roughly 90% of all study patients also received Gilead Sciences Inc.'s Covid-19 antiviral drug Veklury.

The study, which originally also included the investigational drug cenicriviroc from AbbVie Inc., was aimed at evaluating whether any of the medicines, known as immune modulators, could control an overreaction of a patient's systemic Covid-19 inflammatory response, a phenomenon known as a "cytokine storm" for the proteins that trigger the inflammation.

Cytokine storm can lead to respiratory distress, multiple organ failure and other severe reactions in hospitalized patients.

The NIH said the study, which enrolled nearly 2,000 patients from October 2020 through December 2021, showed Remicade and Orencia could potentially add to the therapeutic options available for the treatment of hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

Enrollment in a sub-study evaluating the AbbVie drug was stopped last September after an independent data and safety monitoring board recommended closing it due to lack of efficacy.

Bristol earlier Thursday said that given the study's findings, it plans to discuss the data and potential next steps with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.


--Thomas M. Burton contributed to this article


Write to Colin Kellaher at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 02, 2022 14:09 ET (18:09 GMT)

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