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Outcomes and Adverse Effects of Baricitinib Versus Tocilizumab in the Management of Severe COVID-19.

OBJECTIVES: The National Institutes of Health and Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines recommend tocilizumab or baricitinib in the management of severe COVID-19. Despite clinical trials on the individual agents, there are no large-scale studies comparing the two agents to guide the selection of one versus the other. The purpose of this study was to compare the outcomes and adverse effects of baricitinib versus tocilizumab in the management of severe COVID-19.

DESIGN: Retrospective, observational cohort study.

SETTING: Eleven acute care hospitals in a large health system in Georgia.

PATIENTS: Adult patients with severe COVID-19 who received at least one dose of either baricitinib or tocilizumab between June 2021 and October 2021.


MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: The primary outcome was in-hospital mortality. The key secondary outcome was occurrence rate of adverse effects. A total of 956 patients were identified. The median age was 57 years, and 53% were of male sex. The median body mass index was 33.5, and more than 94% of the population was unvaccinated. Propensity score matching by baseline characteristics resulted in a total of 582 patients, 291 in each group. There was no difference in mortality between the two groups; however, the occurrence rate of adverse effects was significantly higher in the tocilizumab group compared with baricitinib: secondary infections (32% vs 22%; p < 0.01); thrombotic events (24% vs 16%; p < 0.01); and acute liver injury (8% vs 3%; p < 0.01).

CONCLUSIONS: Our propensity score-matched, retrospective, observational study in patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 showed no difference in mortality but significantly fewer adverse effects with baricitinib compared with tocilizumab. Our data suggest that baricitinib may be a better choice when treating patients with severe COVID-19, but additional prospective, randomized trials are needed to help clinicians choose the most optimal drug.

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