The arthritis drug tocilizumab reduces the risk of critically ill patients dying of COVID-19, according to results of a study on Thursday which experts welcomed as an “exciting” development.
The Britain-based RECOVERY research programme investigating COVID-19 treatments said their findings could have a significant effect on hospital survival rates during the pandemic.
The study included more than 2,000 patients who received the drug intravenously compared with nearly 3,000 who were given normal care alone, such as oxygen support and ventilation.
More than 80 per cent of all the patients were also receiving steroid treatments such as dexamethasone, which had been shown in earlier trials to lower the risk of death.
The team behind Thursday’s trial said tocilizumab “significantly” reduced morality.
Of the patients that received the drug, 596 (29 per cent) died within 28 days. This compared to 394 (33 per cent) of patients who died in the control group.
“So that’s a reduction in the risk of death of around about a sixth or a seventh,” said Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford University’s Nuffield Department of Population Health.
Data showed that treating patients requiring oxygen and suffering from significant inflammation with tocilizumab and dexamethasone reduced mortality by around one third.
Patients on ventilators were found to have a roughly 50 per cent lower risk of death when treated with the drug duo.
And, of those patients not on invasive ventilation when entering the trial, tocilizumab was shown to reduce the chance of them progressing to need a ventilator from 38 per cent to 33 per cent.