Home Lifestyle Coronavirus update: Tocilizumab is a highly promising treatment, suggests Prof Whitty

Coronavirus update: Tocilizumab is a highly promising treatment, suggests Prof Whitty


The triple tactic of lockdowns, vaccines and treatments are reducing the risk posed by COVID-19, Professor Chris Whitty said in a press briefing on Monday. In a nod to the latter, Prof Whitty highlighted the promise of tocilizumab – a drug normally used to treat arthritis – in treating severe Covid cases. Tocilizumab has been proven to improve survival outcomes when taken on top of a steroid, he said.

For every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, along with a cheap steroid already routinely given, an additional life would be saved, NHS doctors have said elsewhere.

As well as improving survival and recovery time, it can avoid patients needing to be moved to intensive care, said the NHS doctors.

Patient testimony from Wendy Coleman, 62, attests to the promise of tocilizumab in treating those severely ill with COVID-19.

As the BBC reported, Coleman received the treatment last year when she was admitted to Chesterfield Royal Hospital with severe COVID-19.

READ MORE: Covid vaccine update: ‘You can’t have the jab if you’ve tested positive’ – Matt Hancock

Half of the Covid patients were given tocilizumab, via a drip, alongside usual care with a life-saving cheap steroid drug called dexamethasone.

In that group, compared to another group that did not receive the new drug:

  • Tocilizumab cut death risk – 596 (29 percent) of the patients in the tocilizumab group died within 28 days compared with 694 (33 percent) patients in the usual care group
  • It reduced the chance of a patient needing to go on a ventilator or dying from 38 percent to 33 percent).

Combined, tocilizumab and dexamethasone should cut death risk by about a third for patients on oxygen and halve it for those on a ventilator, the researchers said.

Prof Martin Landray, joint chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial and a medical expert at Oxford University, said: “Used in combination, the impact is substantial. This is good news for patients and good news for the health services that care for them in the UK and around the world.”


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