A health ministry panel on Wednesday approved rheumatoid arthritis drug baricitinib for COVID-19 treatment, the third such case in Japan.

U.S. pharmaceutical group Eli Lilly and Co.'s Japan unit filed for approval in December. The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is expected to formally approve the drug within a month.

In the United States, baricitinib has been approved for use in combination with anti-viral drug remdesivir for coronavirus patients who need supplemental oxygen.

The Japanese government has already approved remdesivir, developed by U.S. firm Gilead Sciences Inc., and the steroid dexamethasone for COVID-19 treatment.