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Oxford study finds standard asthma medication improves recovery time in COVID-19 patients

Early treatment with inhaled budesonide could help high-risk patients

A study led by Oxford University researchers has found the inhaled asthma medication budesonide can shorten recovery time when administered early to high-risk COVID-19 patients.

Budesonide is being evaluated as part of Oxford University’s Platform Randomised Trial of Interventions against COVID-19 in Older People (PRINCIPLE), which is aiming to identify effective COVID-19 treatment for use in the community that can significantly shorten recovery time.

Inhaled budesonide – a type of corticosteroid medication – is commonly used to treat asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The trial involved over 1,7000 people who were at high risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19, including participants aged over 50 had an underlying health condition and participants aged over 65 with no health issues.

The inhaled asthma drug was given to 751 people within the first two weeks of symptom onset, while 1,028 were assigned to the usual care group.

Based on the interim analysis using data with a cutoff of 25 March 2021, the results showed that the estimated time to self-reported recovery for inhaled budesonide was three days shorter compared to the usual care group.

In addition, 32% of those receiving inhaled budesonide recovered within 14 days and remained well at 28 days compared to 22% in the usual care group.

The researchers also found that 8.5% in the budesonide group were hospitalised with COVID-19 compared with 10.3% in the usual care group, although they added that it is not clear from this interim analysis whether budesonide reduces hospitalisations.

The study will continue until all remaining patients have completed their follow-up, at which point a full analysis will be completed. Detailed results on time to recovery and hospitalisations will be published following this.

In January, the PRINCIPLE study also found that the commonly-used antibiotics azithromycin and doxycycline are not generally effective in certain patients with early COVID-19.

The study evaluated each antibiotic as separate treatments in the trial – although interim data has found that neither drug reduced the time to self-reported recovery in patients aged over 50 years.

The trial is continuing to investigate the effects of the commonly-used anti-inflammatory medication colchicine and the antiviral favipiravir for the treatment of COVID-19 in the community.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

13th April 2021

From: Research

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