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What type of drug is Olumiant (baricitinib)?

Medically reviewed by Melisa Puckey, BPharm. Last updated on Sep 11, 2021.

Official Answer


Olumiant is the brand name of the medicine called baricitinib which is a Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor.

JAK inhibitors are intracellular enzymes that work by interfering with cytokine signaling to influence cell processes of immune cell function and inflammation.

Olumiant is used for rheumatoid arthritis treatment

Olumiant is an FDA approved medicine used alone or in combination with methotrexate or other non-biologic DMARDs for the treatment of moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in patients with an inadequate response to tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors.

In clinical trials, Olumiant had a significant response rate in RA compared to placebo after 12 weeks of treatment (49% versus 27% response rate, respectively). According to Eli Lilly, the price of Olumiant will be 60% less than the leading tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor.

Olumiant can be used for COVID-19 Treatment

Baricitinib is also being studied for use in treating coronavirus. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) on July 29,2021 so that baricitinib can be used to treat adults and children at least 2 years old who are hospitalized with COVID-19 and using supplemental oxygen or a ventilator. Baricitinib does not have FDA approval to treat coronavirus or COVID-19.

For a medicine to gain FDA approval, the evidence that shows it is effective has to be at a higher level and a larger quantity, compared to gaining EUA approval.

Baricitinib was studied for the treatment of COVID-19 In the Phase 3 COV-BARRIER study (NCT04421027). This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of hospitalized patients which compared baricitinib 4 mg once daily treatment plus standard of care, to placebo treatment with normal standard of care.

The results of the study showed that by day 28:

  • Baricitinib patients were less likely to progress to needing ventilation or dying (Baricitinib group 27.8% and placebo group 30.5%)
  • Baricitinib group had a reduced the risk of death (Baricitinib 8% and placebo group 13%)

Bottom line:

  • Olumiant (baricitinib) is a JAK inhibitor that influences immune cell function and inflammation.
  • Olumiant is an FDA approved medicine used to treat moderate to severe RA that has not responded well to another type of RA medicine called TNF inhibitors
  • Olumiant has a EUA issued for the treatment of COVID-19 for hospitalized patients who are 2 years or older and require supplemental oxygen or are on a ventilator.

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