Treating critically ill COVID-19 patients with arthritis drugs may significantly improve survival, a study finds.
The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, come from the REMAP-CAP trial, which evaluates the effect of treatments on a combination of survival and length of time patients need support in an intensive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.
Now, the latest analysis shows that tocilizumab and a second drug called sarilumab, have a significant impact on patient survival, reducing mortality by 8.5%.
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.
Professor Anthony Gordon, chair in anaesthesia and critical care at Imperial College London said ‘This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with COVID-19.
‘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.
‘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.’
The Department of Health and Social Care said updated guidance will be issued tomorrow (January 8) to Trusts across the UK, encouraging them to use tocilizumab in their treatment of COVID-19 patients who are admitted to intensive care units, effective immediately.
Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: ‘This is a significant step forward for increasing survival of patients in intensive care with COVID-19.
‘The data shows that tocilizumab, and likely sarilumab, speed up and improve the odds of recovery in intensive care, which is crucial for helping to relieve pressure on intensive care and hospitals and saving lives.
‘This is evidence of the UK’s excellent research infrastructure and life sciences industry advancing global understanding of this disease, which we have done both through our own programme of clinical research and through our ability to make very large contributions to international studies.’
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