Coronavirus recovery drug approved for use in eczema

A drug shown to cut recovery time from coronavirus has been approved as a once-a-day eczema treatment.

Baricitinib is now available across Europe for adults with moderate to severe eczema and can be taken as a daily tablet.

The drug, which was originally designed as an arthritis medicine, has been shown to cut Covid-19 recovery time by a day in hospitalised patients when combined with the drug remdesivir.

A final-phase stage three clinical trial run by the manufacturer Eli Lilly is ongoing to see if there are any further benefits from baricitinib.

The drug, which will have the brand name Olumiant for treating eczema, works by interfering with the immune system’s inflammatory processes.

It has yet to be approved for eczema use on the NHS by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) but people can obtain a private prescription.

Andrew Proctor, chief executive of the charity the National Eczema Society, said: “This is the first new oral treatment for atopic eczema in many years and it offers real hope to those living with moderate to severe disease.

“For people with more severe eczema, even doing everyday things like getting dressed can be agony, when the skin is so inflamed, cracked and painful.

“Coupled with intense, relentless itching, it’s no wonder that this condition places such a significant burden on patients and their families.

“This has the potential to help those who are currently struggling to get their disease under control.”

Dr Andrew Pink, consultant dermatologist from Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said the drug worked by “targeting the complex immune mechanisms” underlying moderate to severe eczema and was “an important, welcome and positive new addition” to available treatments.