Does arthritis drug Tocilizumab help Covid-19 patients? Here’s what study says

The study looked at 803 Covid-19 patients who were in ICU; it was seen that 72 per cent of 353 who were administered with tocilizumab were able to survive because of the drug.

Tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, is now being used for treatment of Covid-19 patients and phase 3 trials in India have shown the drug improving outcomes in Covid-19 infected patients with severe illness. A joint study by Medanta Institute of Education and Research and the University of Bristol, which has also been published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, suggested that tocilizumab bringing changes in severely ill patients. However, according to the authors, the study is not in support of the routine use of tocilizumab in adults having COVID-19 infection.

It is to note that there has been a debate around the anti-inflammatory drug. This study has given some evidence regarding the drug’s utility in the treatment of the novel Coronavirus. The study looked at 803 Covid-19 patients who were in ICU; it was seen that 72 per cent of 353 who were administered with tocilizumab were able to survive because of the drug. The remaining 402 patients were given standard treatment.

Some studies, on the other hand, have witnessed tocilizumab being less effective when given to patients having the viral infection. In fact, tocilizumab manufacturer Roche in July last year had said that the phase 3 trial results indicated that the drug was not able to meet the primary endpoint of clinical improvement along with the secondary endpoint which focused on reduction in mortality.

However, the COVINTOC (Covid India Tocilizumab) findings have shown the phase 3 trials in 12 public and private hospitals across India resulted in tocilizumab helping people in severe conditions while battling COVID-19 infection. The analysis revealed the drug was able to reduce risk of progression to death in a subset of patients with severe diseases.

But there are some limitations to it. According to a report by The Indian Express, the clinical parameters or biomarkers that can identify patients reliably on whom the drug will be beneficial along with the optimal timing of treatment is still unknown. The authors concluded that “the study does not support the routine use of tocilizumab in adults with Covid-19, but it will be able to add to the growing evidence that suggests its help to severely ill patients.”

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