Seriously ill coronavirus patients in United Kingdom to receive rheumatoid arthritis drugs

Grant Boone
January 10, 2021

In June past year, the United Kingdom government approved dexamethasone as the world's first treatment proven to reduce mortality for COVID-19.

There's a warning every intensive care unit across the country is almost full as the number of Covid-19 patients continues to rise.

However, lead researcher of the REMAP CAP study Professor Anthony Gordon commented: "For every 12 patients you treat with these drugs you would expect to save a life".

It comes after results from the Government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial showed that both drugs reduced the risk of mortality by 8.5% when administered to patients within a day of entering intensive care alongside a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone. The drug is already available in United Kingdom hospitals, and officials are working with the drug sponsor, Roche, to ensure continued supply, per the statement.

"In particular, tocilizumab and sarilumab, and they'll shortly be on everybody's lips, which have been found to reduce the risk of death for critical ill patients by nearly a quarter and they've cut time spent in intensive care by as much as 10 days". As part of the trial, COVID-19 patients in intensive care were given several immunosuppressive drugs, called IL-6 receptor antagonists.

The hospital mortality rate, combining the outcomes for the two drugs, was 27.3 percent (108/395)-a 24 percent relative reduction in death risk compared to the group receiving standard care.

Supplies are already available across the United Kingdom so they can be used immediately to save hundreds of lives, say experts.

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"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".

Dr Lennie Derde, intensive care consultant and European coordinating investigator of the Remap-Cap trial, said the global nature of the trial was important, given the worldwide impact of the pandemic.

Based on these results, it was found that one death in eight ventilated patients would be prevented by dexamethasone treatment, or around 25 patients requiring oxygen only.

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".

"Since approximately 80% of patients also received dexamethasone or another steroid in the Remap-Cap trial, it appears, Horby said, that tocilizumab and sarilumab offer additional benefit".

There are no available intensive beds in midlands hospitals today.

However, Gordon said the therapies were still cost-effective given the lives they would save and the impact on time spent in intensive care.

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