UK Study Finds Arthritis Drugs Offer Life-saving Treatment for Covid-19

Coronavirus news

In a relief to health systems around the world which are buckling under the recent rapid spread of the coronavirus, scientists have found that two drugs used to fight arthritis cut the risk of death from Covid-19. Additional findings from a larger group of patients not only confirm the benefits of the drug, but also show that another arthritis drug, sarilumab, seems to be doing the same thing, not only saving lives but also reducing the time spent in intensive care by patients. "In mechanically ventilated patients, we saw an absolute reduction in the risk of death of approximately 12% with dexamethasone [in the Recovery Study], and here you see an absolute reduction of approximately 8% -thaa percent- The data show that tocilizumab, and likely sarilumab, accelerate and improve ICU recovery, which is critical for decongesting and saving lives in ICUs and hospitals".

Study lead Prof. Anthony Gordon of Imperial College London also lauded the results.

It also comes as countries struggle to contain two variants of the virus found in South Africa and Britain that are more transmissible and have driven a surge in infections.

The government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial has shown that the drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death in patients in intensive care units with COVID-19 by 24%, within 24 hours of entering the care unit.

NHS patients will have access to tocilizumab and sarilumab - which are typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis - under updated guidance due to be issued tomorrow by the Government and the NHS to Trusts across the UK.

Although the drugs are not cheap, costing around £750 to £1,000 per patient, on top of the £5 course of dexamethasone, the advantage of using them is clear - and less than the cost per day of an intensive care bed of around £2,000, say experts.

In the study, the participants randomly received either tocilizumab 8mg / kg or sarilumab 400mg or standard care (control).


"The UK has proven time and time again it is at the very forefront of identifying and providing the most promising, innovative treatments for its patients", said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Almost 400 patients also underwent further tests, including an assessment of their lung function, and 94 patients whose blood antibody levels were recorded at the height of the infection received a follow-up test.

Supplies are already available across the United Kingdom so they can be used immediately to save hundreds of lives, say experts.

"Our analysis indicates that most patients continue to live with at least some of the effects of the virus after leaving hospital, and highlights a need for post-discharge care, particularly for those who experience severe infections", said study co-author Bin Cao, from National Center for Respiratory Medicine, China-Japan Friendship Hospital in China.

Hospital mortality was 28%, 22.2% and 35.8% in cohorts receiving tocilizumab, sarilumab and standard care, respectively.

A medical trial, REMAP-CAP, is now underway to test a range of different COVID-19 treatments, including antivirals, drugs, and therapies.

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