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Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications May Help Fight Severe COVID

FRIDAY, February 26, 2021 (HealthDay News) – Rheumatoid arthritis drugs may save the lives of patients hospitalized with severe cases of COVID-19, according to a groundbreaking clinical trial.

The results, first announced in January, have now been peer reviewed and published in a leading medical journal.

“We are delighted that our full results are now published after peer review. This confirms the robustness of our results, namely that tocilizumab and sarilumab can reduce deaths in the sickest patients with COVID by almost a quarter, ”said researcher Dr Anthony Gordon, chair in anesthesia and care. intensive at Imperial College London, UK.

In the study, initially reported in November, the arthritis drugs tocilizumab (Actemra) and sarilumab (Kevzara) reduced mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients by almost 9 percentage points, or about 25 %. The drugs are immune modulators called IL-6 receptor antagonists.

These drugs have also significantly shortened hospital stays for patients.

“On average, patients were discharged [intensive care units] a week earlier and [left] the hospital two weeks earlier, ”Gordon said, noting that“ several thousand patients ”had already benefited from the use of drugs through the National Health Service in the UK.

“Other studies have now confirmed our results and therefore even more patients will continue to benefit,” he said in a college press release.

Of 353 patients in the trial, some received tocilizumab or sarilumab; others received an inactive placebo.

Thirty-six percent of patients receiving placebo died, compared to 27% of patients receiving the drugs (28% for tocilizumab, 22% for sarilumab).

This means that for 12 patients treated, a life would be saved, the study authors explained.

Gordon noted that previous trials using IL-6 receptor agonists have shown no clear benefit on disease progression or survival in COVID-19 patients. But those studies included patients with less severe disease and treatment started at different stages, he said.

“A crucial difference may be that in our study, critically ill patients were recruited within 24 hours of starting organ support,” Gordon said. “This highlights a potential early treatment window where the sickest patients can derive the most benefit from immune modulation therapy.”

The results were published on February 25 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

More information

To learn more about COVID-19, head to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCE: Imperial College London, press release, February 25, 2021