Asthma drug Budesonide helps COVID-19 recovery at home

pharmafile | April 13, 2021 | News story | Manufacturing and Production COVID-19, asthma drug 

Budesonide, a widely-used asthma drug, is the first treatment to be proven to speed up the recovery of COVID-19 patients who stay at home.

The drug is administered via an inhaler, and just two puffs taken twice daily has been proven to benefit over-50s with early symptoms, according to the University of Oxford research team.

The researchers have also said there are early signs the drug could reduce hospital admissions and the NHS have stated that it can now be prescribed by GPs to treat COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis.

Budesonide is a cheap and widely available drug that targets the lungs – where COVID-19 can cause severe damage.

During the trial Budesonide was delivered to participant’s homes, who then started using the inhaler within 14 days of first showing COVID-19 symptoms.

On average, those who took the drug felt better 11 days after entering the study, compared with 14 days for the control group who received standard care.

Those patients who received budesonide, which costs about £14 per person, were more likely to make a sustained recovery, meaning that they did not relapse after first feeling better within 28 days. They were also more likely to report better mental health, compared with the control group.

Professor Richard Hobbs of Oxford University, a co-chief of the trial, said: “For the first time we have high-quality evidence of an effective treatment that can be rolled out across the community for people who are at most risk of developing more severe illness from Covid-19.

“Unlike other proven treatments, budesonide is effective as a treatment at home and during the early stages of the illness. This is a significant milestone for this pandemic and a major achievement for community-based research.”

The trial’s conclusion was based on data from 751 patients who were asked to take 400 micrograms of inhaled budesonide at home, twice a day for two weeks, compared with a control group of 1,028 patients. Among the patients receiving budesonide, 8.5% were admitted to hospital. That compared with 10.3% in the group receiving standard care.

Budesonide is a corticosteroid that is often prescribed for asthma, it helps reduce inflammation and lab experiments suggest that it might also slow the rate at which the coronavirus replicates. It also reduced the activity of a receptor found on the outside of human cells, Ace2, which the virus uses to cause infection.

These are interim results from the trial up to the end of March, which have not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a journal. Final results from the trial, which are likely to include more data, are expected at the end of April.

Kat Jenkins

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