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Treating critically ill COVID-19 patients with drugs typically used for arthritis may significantly improve survival, a landmark study has found.
The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, come from the REMAP-CAP trial, which evaluates the effect of treatments on a combination of survival and length of time patients need support in an intensive care unit (ICU).
Initial findings reported in November showed that tocilizumab, a drug used to treat arthritis, was likely to improve outcomes among critically ill COVID-19 patients. But the impact on patient survival and length of time on organ support in ICU was not clear at that time.
"This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with COVID-19," – Professor Anthony Gordon
Now, the latest analysis shows that tocilizumab and a second drug called sarilumab – both types of immune modulators called IL-6 receptor antagonists – have a significant impact on patient survival, reducing mortality by 8.5%.*
Furthermore, the treatment also improved recovery so that on average patients were able to be discharged from the intensive care unit (ICU) about a week earlier.
The latest analysis is published in a pre-print available on medRxiv, with the findings submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.
“This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with COVID-19,” said Professor Anthony Gordon, Chair in Anaesthesia and Critical Care at Imperial College London and a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
“We found that among critically ill adult patients – those receiving breathing support in intensive care – treatment with these drugs can improve their chances of survival and recovery,” explained Professor Gordon. “At a time when hospitalisations and deaths from COVID-19 are soaring in the UK, it’s crucial we continue to identify effective treatments which can help to turn the tide against this disease.”