Two arthritis drugs slash the risk of Covid patients in ICU dying by 24%

Coronavirus patients fighting for their lives in NHS intensive care units will now be given arthritis drugs after a major trial found two different medications can reduce the risk of death by nearly a quarter. 

Anti-inflammatory drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab were part of the REMAP-CAP investigation which involved 3,900 people with severe Covid-19 in 15 countries.

The drugs are administered via an intravenous drip for an hour and given to participants alongside the standard care which includes the steroid dexamethasone.

Dexamethasone was authorised for use on patients in June as clinical study data revealed it reduced the risk of death by 35 per cent. 

In the latest study people who only received dexamethasone had a death rate of 35.8 per cent but when given either tocilizumab or sarilumab this dropped to 25.3 per cent. 

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This 8.5 per cent drop in absolute risk means that around one in four (24 per cent) of people who would otherwise die will be saved by the new treatment, and of all people who will be treated in ICU with the drugs, one in 12 will be saved. 

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Anti-inflammatory drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab were part of the REMAP-CAP investigation which involved 3,900 people with severe Covid-19 in 15 countries

Anti-inflammatory drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab were part of the REMAP-CAP investigation which involved 3,900 people with severe Covid-19 in 15 countries 

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said of the breakthrough: '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.'

Tocilizumab has been in different clinical trials for a long period of time and interim data from the REMAP-CAP study published in November indicated it was beneficial to the most severely ill patients.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) said: 'Today's results are yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic and, when added to the armoury of vaccines and treatments already being rolled out, will play a significant role in defeating this virus'

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) said: 'Today's results are yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic and, when added to the armoury of vaccines and treatments already being rolled out, will play a significant role in defeating this virus'

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Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (pictured) said of the breakthrough: 'This is a significant step forward for increasing survival of patients in intensive care with COVID-19'

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam (pictured) said of the breakthrough: 'This is a significant step forward for increasing survival of patients in intensive care with COVID-19'

The new data, published today as a pre-print, confirms these findings and the Department of Health will, as of tomorrow morning, update its guidance to clinicians and recommend the drugs for use in intensive care. 

How tocilizumab and sarilumab work 

The two drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab are anti inflammatory. 

They are currently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and similar conditions. 

In Covid patients they inhibit a specific part of the immune system which occurs when the body goes haywire and attacks itself. 

it stops little molecules called interleukin 6 (IL-6) from latching on to their receptors. 

Normally, when they bind to the receptors they cause it to die, which leads to significant damage. 

In Covid patients this happens in the lungs and airways and leads to respiratory issues. 

By getting in the way of this pathway the drugs allow the body to retain its natural immune response equilibrium and improve a patient's condition. 

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Both the drugs are commonly found in hospitals and easily administered by trained healthcare workers, and costs

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