Arthritis anti-inflammatory treatment could halt immune system ‘storm’ to coronavirus

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Doctors say anti-inflammatory treatment tocilizumab could save lives by halting the immune system ¿storm¿ that has killed thousands of virus patients (file photo)


Could an arthritis drug be a breakthrough treatment for Covid? Doctors say anti-inflammatory treatment could halt the immune system ‘storm’ responsible for killing thousands

  • Doctors say anti-inflammatory treatment tocilizumab could save lives
  • It could be used to halt the immune system ‘storm’ that has killed thousands
  • If successful, it would only be second drug proven to save lives from the virus 

Hope were rising last night that an arthritis drug could prove to be a breakthrough treatment for coronavirus.

Doctors say anti-inflammatory treatment tocilizumab could save lives by halting the immune system ‘storm’ that has killed thousands of virus patients.

Results of a major global trial are expected this week.

Doctors say anti-inflammatory treatment tocilizumab could save lives by halting the immune system ‘storm’ that has killed thousands of virus patients (file photo)

Doctors are confident the drug, which was originally developed as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, will stop the hyper-inflammation that happens when the immune system starts attacking the body. 

It could dramatically reduce coronavirus deaths – many of which are caused by the aggressive immune response rather than the virus itself. If successful, it would be only the second drug proven to save lives from the virus. So far the only one shown to work is the steroid dexamethasone.

Researchers believe a wide variety of Covid-19 treatments are needed to make the biggest difference, allowing doctors to target drugs against specific problems.

The treatment could dramatically reduce coronavirus deaths ¿ many of which are caused by the aggressive immune response rather than the virus itself (file photo)

The treatment could dramatically reduce coronavirus deaths – many of which are caused by the aggressive immune response rather than the virus itself (file photo) 

The trial involved 450 virus patients around the world.

Swiss drugs giant Roche makes the treatment. Doctors are hopeful of a positive outcome. Dr Taryn Youngstein, of Imperial College London, who worked on the trial, said: ‘It’s very clear that the major form of Covid that kills people is related to… the body’s response to the virus – rather than the virus itself. We need to think about how we can suppress this response.’

Tocilizumab has also been used to minimise the danger for cancer patients undergoing risky ‘T-cell’ therapy. Dr Youngstein added: ‘We are very familiar with the drug. We know it’s very safe and very well-tolerated. The question is whether it works in Covid-19.’

An earlier Italian study suggested it might cut deaths by up to 39 per cent, but it was not a so-called randomised control trial so the results were inconclusive.

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