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Arthritis drug against Covid-19 shows promising results

In Brescia, Italy, some 100 Covid patients with severe respiratory problems treated with Tocilizumab, an anti-arthritis drug, showed improvement in 77 percent of cases. 

Published: April 22, 2020, 8:59 am

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    Tocilizumab, an anti-arthritis drug being tested also against Coronavirus, has been giving positive results after more than two-thirds of patients treated improved or stabilized.

    The drug was created with another clinical purpose, that of treating superinflammation in diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. The results are from the first hundred patients with the virus treated at the Asst Spedali Civili in Brescia with severe respiratory failure.

    Italian daily la Repubblica reported that within 24-72 hours and 10 days after administration of Tocilizumab, improvement of acute respiratory distress syndrome was assessed using scores ranging from 0 to 8 in order of increasing severity.

    Nicola Latronico of the Anesthesia and Resuscitation Unit 2 and spokesperson for the study, said out of 100 patients 43 received Tocilizumab in the intensive care unit, and 57 outside the intensive care unit due to unavailability of beds. “Of these 57 patients, 37 (65 percent) improved and discontinued non-invasive ventilation, seven (12 percent) remained stable in the intensive care unit and 13 (23 percent) worsened (10 deaths, 3 hospitalized in intensive care).”

    Overall, the respiratory condition improved or stabilized in 77 patients at 10 days, of whom 61 showed a significant reduction in lung injury and 15 were discharged from the hospital, the expert said.

    Thanks to these results, the drug will undoubtedly also be used in numerous other patients given the lack, at the moment, of other available drugs.

    Moreover, laboratory testing on Tocilizumab have shown in all patients very high levels, sometimes even out of scale, of reactive protein C (Pcr), ferritin, D-Dimer and triglycerides, confirming the hypothesis that a hyper-inflammatory disease present when patients’ respiratory conditions worsened and confirming the rationale for using Tocilizumab.

    The study was carried out by a group of specialists in Anesthesia and Resuscitation, Infectious Diseases, Rheumatology, Pediatrics, Clinical Biochemistry and Immunology of the University of Brescia, and will be published in the July issue of Autoimmunity Reviews magazine.

    The Pascale Institute in Naples was the first to show excellent results on two hospitalized Chinese patients and on four others who had been extubated after the drug was administered. Hospital doctors had launched an appeal to validate the positive results of Tocilizumab.

    In addition, China in recent weeks noted that Tocilizumab could be a valid treatment and it was defined as “effective” at the Anhui Provincial Hospital as well as the Anhui Fuyang Hospital.

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