As of this morning - Wednesday April 2 - the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 29,474, with 2,352 deaths.

Novartis and Incyte are planning to launch a clinical study to test the potential of Jakavi (ruxolitinib) in patients with COVID-19 associated cytokine storm, a type of severe immune overreaction that can result from the infection and may contribute to respiratory compromise in some patients.

According to the Swiss drugmaker, preclinical and preliminary clinical evidence suggests that the JAK inhibitor could reduce the number of patients requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation.

The proposed trial will assess Jakavi in combination with standard of care (SoC) therapy, compared to SoC therapy alone, in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia as a result of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Given the rapid spread of the pandemic, and as plans for the study are finalised, Novartis has established an international compassionate use programme for eligible patients, subject to local regulations.

The firm said it is also taking steps to manage the anticipated increase in COVID-19 related requests for Jakavi without interrupting access for patients taking the drug for its licensed indications.

“The potential that Jakavi could lead to faster recovery times for COVID-19 patients with fewer requiring intensive care and mechanical ventilation is encouraging and absolutely merits further investigation,” said John Tsai, head of Global Drug Development and chief medical officer at Novartis.

“We now are moving rapidly to finalise the study plan and then to enroll eligible patients, as well as put in place a process to provide access for patients unable to participate in the trial.”

Wash your hands frequently:

Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.

Maintain social distancing:

Maintain at least two metres (six feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.

If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early:

Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.