A UK study has found out that an arthritis drug has the potency to reduce the risk of death by about 24% for people suffering from severe forms of COVID-19 if this drug is administered to these patients within 24 hours of their being admitted into intensive care. The drug in question is called tocilizumab and has long been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, Aljazeera reports.
The study named the REMAP-CAP clinical trial was undertaken by Imperial College, London and funded by the UK government. The study found that tocilizumab has the ability to reduce the death of critically-ill COVID-19 patients if it is given immediately after a patient goes into intensive care.
According to information by the health ministry, tocilizumab also reduced the duration patients spent while admitted in the ICU by about seven to ten days.
While the findings are still awaiting peer review, most of the data used in the study were from the period the drug was administered to patients. It was given to patients alongside a corticosteroid, such as a dexamethasone, which is already the drug of choice for patients suffering from severe cases of COVID-19.
The UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, described the outcome of the study as a significant step forward in improving the rate of survival for COVID-19 patients in intensive care. He noted that tocilizumab, alongside sarilumab, another drug evaluated in the study, improved the chances of survival for the severely affected COVID-19 patients, helping to reduce the pressure that hospitals, most especially ICUs, have faced these past few months of the pandemic, the Guardian writes.
The UK is currently faced with rising cases of coronavirus infections, worsened by a recently found novel variant of the virus, which is touted by experts to be more transmissible. The country is currently on lockdown, with fears that the public health system could be overwhelmed before the positive impact of the newly commenced inoculation program could be felt in the country.
Just on Thursday, about 52,618 more cases were confirmed, with about 3,600 people needing hospitalization. The health minister noted that in the coming weeks and months, the use of tocilizumab in the treatment of COVID-19 patients would go a long way towards reducing the pressure felt by the health system. The ministry said it would recommend that doctors use tocilizumab in the treatments of patients that have been admitted to the ICU.
Both tocilizumab and sarilumab are IL-6 receptor antagonists and are known to suppress the immune system. The REMAP-CAP clinical trial involved more than 3,900 COVID-19 patients in 15 countries around the world.