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Bristol Myers, J&J Drugs Reduce COVID Death Rates in NIH Study

(Reuters) – A late-stage study of two rheumatoid arthritis drugs from Bristol Myers Squibb and Johnson & Johnson showed a significant drop in deaths among hospitalized COVID patients, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on Thursday.

However, both the drugs failed to meet the main goal of speeding up recovery compared with a placebo, the study of nearly 2,000 patients found.

Those who received J&J’s Remicade had 40.5% lower adjusted odds of dying than the placebo group, while those on Bristol Myers’ Orencia were 37.4% less likely to die.

“When given in addition to standard-of-care treatments, like remdesivir and dexamethasone, infliximab (Remicade) and abatacept (Orencia) each offered a substantial reduction in mortality,” said the trial’s protocol chair, Dr. William Powderly, director of the Institute for Clinical and Translational Sciences and co-director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Both groups of patients also had substantially better odds of clinical improvement than those on placebo, according to the study results, described in a press release on Thursday (

The full report is expected to be published in a peer-reviewed journal in fall of 2022, the statement notes, and a preprint will be available sooner. The results will also be made available to treatment guideline groups and regulatory bodies, the statement adds.

Started in October 2020, the ACTIV-1 Immune Modulators clinical trial ( was part of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) public-private partnership for coordinated research on promising treatments and vaccines against COVID-19. (

The trial was testing the two drugs, along with AbbVie’s experimental candidate cenicriviroc, to treat an immune overreaction known as a “cytokine storm” seen in certain patients with moderate-to-severe COVID-19.

Enrollment for the cenicriviroc group was stopped in September last year due to lack of efficacy.

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