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Arthritis drug reduces COVID-19 deaths for patients on ventilators

Published on 14/07/20 at 11:38am
U.S. Air Force photo/Ilka Cole

The rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizumab reduces death rates in coronavirus patients on ventilation, according to new studies. 

The first single observational study conducted by the researchers at the University of Michigan, and published in Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that tocilizumab was linked to a 45% reduction in risk of death and improved status. This involved 78 coronavirus patients who received the drug compared with 76 who did not, from 9 March and 20 April.  In addition to the lower death rate and also halved the case fatality rate at 28 days.

The authors of the study summed up: “These data are encouraging and can help to inform clinical practice while results from randomized controlled trials of IL-6 inhibitors are awaited.”

In another study from researchers in Milan, published in the Journal of Infection, found that the drug halved the death rate of coronavirus patients compared with standard care. However it did lengthen the hospital stays.

This study compared the outcomes of 74 coronavirus patients treated with the drug compared to 148 who matched controls. While patients with less severe symptoms of the virus did not derive much benefit, those who were critically ill did.

The authors of the Milan study concluded: “This study confirms the potentially effectiveness of tocilizumab on COVID-19—especially in critically ill patients—with a reliable comparison group that allows to weigh the potential clinical impact of this treatment. Nevertheless, we suggest using it cautiously due to drug-related adverse events, remarkably transitory respiratory worsening, and bacterial infections.”

Conor Kavanagh

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