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Tocilizumab and sarilumab reduce COVID-19 patient mortality by 8.5 percent, data shows

IL-6 receptor antagonists tocilizumab and sarilumab have a significant impact on COVID-19 patient mortality, a study has shown.

COVID-19 antibodies

New findings have shown that tocilizumab and sarilumab – both IL-6 receptor antagonists – have a significant impact on COVID-19 patient survival, reducing mortality by 8.5 percent.

The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, come from the REMAP-CAP trial, which evaluates the effect of treatments on a combination of survival and length of time patients need support in an intensive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).

Findings reported in November demonstrated that tocilizumab was likely to improve outcomes among critically ill COVID-19 patients. However 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 along with sarilumab, both immunosuppressive drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, have a significant impact on patient survival. 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.

At the time of full analysis 353 patients had been assigned to tocilizumab, 48 to sarilumab and 402 to control. The majority of patients were also treated with corticosteroids and were receiving respiratory support.

Hospital mortality was reported as 27.3 percent among patients receiving IL-6 receptor agonists (28 percent for tocilizumab, 22.2 percent for sarilumab) compared with 35.8 percent for control group.

“This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with COVID-19,” said lead researcher Professor Anthony Gordon, from Imperial College London, UK. “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 is crucial we continue to identify effective treatments which can help to turn the tide against this disease.”

The latest analysis will be published in a pre-print available on medRxiv, with the findings submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

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