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Pfizer's rheumatoid arthritis drug shows benefit in COVID-19 pneumonia

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June 16 (Reuters) - Pfizer Inc said on Wednesday its oral rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz reduced death or respiratory failure in hospitalized COVID-19 patients with pneumonia in Brazil, meeting the study's main goal.

Results of the study, which tested the drug in 289 hospitalized adult patients with the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Pfizer said the incidence of death or respiratory failure was 18.1% for patients treated with the drug compared to 29% for placebo. Serious adverse events occurred in 20 patients treated with the drug compared to 17 patients on placebo.

Xeljanz, which belongs to a class of drugs called JAK inhibitors and also treats the autoimmune disease ulcerative colitis, has not been approved or authorized for use in any country for the treatment of COVID-19.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE's vaccine is one of the three vaccines currently approved for emergency use in the United States.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Arun Koyyur)