Arthritis Drug Cuts Risk of Dying by Half

A new study reveals coronavirus patients who were severely ill with COVID-19 were 45% less likely to die after being given the drug tocilizumab, an interleukin-6 receptor inhibitor, that has used to treat arthritis.

Tocilizumab is an anti-inflammatory medication that scientists believe works in COVID-19 patients by modulating the immune response to the virus. The groundbreaking study was conducted on 154 intubated patients at Michigan Medicine.

According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, patients given doses of the drug slashed their risk of dying in half compared to those who didn’t receive the medication. Researchers said tocilizumab, sold under the brand name Actemra, belongs to class of drugs called interleukin-6 receptor inhibitor, or IL-6, that might tame the dangerous cytokine storms that occur then the immune system overreacts to a viral attack.

Cytokine storms can cause respiratory distress which in turn could lead to organ failure and even death. Currently, the drug is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in coronavirus patients.

Another study by Hackensack Meridian Health (HMH) found that 56% of patients suffering from COVID-19 in ICU also had an improved survival rates when given doses of tocilizumab, according to the International Business Times.

“This groundbreaking study will help our hospitals, as well as hospitals throughout the world, better understand the effectiveness of certain forms of treatment,” Dr. Robert Garrett, CEO of HMH, said.

“Our researchers’ observations that tocilizumab may improve survival among the most critically ill could alter the course of the pandemic if confirmed in randomized trials,” he added.

According to the Daily Mail, the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche recently announced it was launching a clinical trial combing tocilizumab and remdesivir to create a coronavirus cocktail for treating severe COVID-19 patients.

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