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China approves Roche's Actemra to fight severe complications stemming from coronavirus

Published on 05/03/20 at 11:30am

China has moved to authorise Roche’s Actemra (tocilizumab) as a treatment for severe complications from contracting the COVID-19 coronavirus in a bid to contain the ongoing national and global outbreak of the virus.

The anti-inflammatory interleukin 6 (IL-6) inhibitor was originally approved by the FDA in 2010 as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis

China’s National Health Commission confirmed that Actemra is now authorised for use in coronavirus patients with serious lung damage and high IL-6 levels. It is believed that some coronavirus-related deaths have been spurred by an overreaction of the immune system known as cytokine release syndrome, or a ‘cytokine storm’.

However, no clinical trial data has been published detailing the safety and efficacy of the drug against the coronavirus.

The drug is currently being tested in a separate trial of 188 coronavirus patients, which is scheduled to end 10 May.

So far, there have been 80,000 infections and 3,000 deaths in China since the outbreak started in the city of Wuhan. In February, Roche donated $2.02 million in Actemra doses last month in an attempt to halt the spread of the virus within the country’s borders.

Matt Fellows

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