This arthritis drug could effectively treat sickest COVID-19 patients

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In a new study, researchers found that critically ill COVID-19 patients treated with an arthritis drug are significantly more likely to have improved outcomes.

They examined the effect of treatments on a combination of survival and length of time patients need support in an intensive care unit (ICU).

They found that treatment with tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, reached a key efficacy endpoint among critically ill patients with severe COVID-19, compared to patients who did not receive any immune modulation treatment.

Patients receiving tocilizumab were more likely to improve (measured by a combination of organ support, such as a breathing machine, in the ICU and surviving the hospital admission) compared to patients who received no immune modulator.

The research was conducted by a team at Imperial College London and elsewhere.

The latest analysis included data from the first 303 patients who received immune modulation treatments: tocilizumab, sarilumab, anakinra, interferon, or no immune modulator.

The data yielded an estimated odds ratio of 1.87 for a better outcome with tocilizumab compared to no immune modulation, with a high degree of statistical certainty.

In addition to these findings, the analysis also found an antiviral drug called Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) to be ineffective and provided no additional benefit to critically ill COVID-19 patients, compared to those who did not receive the drug.

The relative contribution of survival and reduced length of time needing organ support in ICU has not yet been analyzed.

The trial does not yet know the relative benefits of tocilizumab compared to the other immune modulators. Further data are expected in the coming weeks and months.

Due to the clinical implications for patients, the researchers have released the findings before they have been peer-reviewed, but are working to analyze and publish the full results as soon as possible.

One author of the study is Professor Anthony Gordon.

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