Roche's arthritis drug linked to lower death rates for COVID-19 patients, study finds

Roche's rheumatoid arthritis drug tocilizumab was linked to a lower risk of death 90 days after treatment in patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 or pneumonia, especially patients with high C-reactive protein levels, according to a May 24 JAMA Internal Medicine research letter.

A team of researchers continued a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in October that said the drug helped reduce mortality in critically ill COVID-19 patients if given within the first two days of admission to an intensive care unit. In the original study, researchers found that patients benefited most from tocilizumab if they had high C-reactive protein levels. C-reactive protein is a marker of inflammation.

The new research letter said that by day 14, 18 percent of patients with C-reactive protein levels higher than 15 milligrams per deciliter who received tocilizumab died or required ventilation, whereas 57 percent of patients in the control group died or required ventilation. The researchers found that by day 90, patients with high C-reactive protein levels were less likely to die from COVID-19 if they received tocilizumab compared to patients who didn't.

"This follow-up analysis suggests that tocilizumab may be considered for treating patients with moderate-to-severe COVID-19-associated pneumonia and high CRP levels," the researchers wrote. "Further studies will help determine which patients with COVID-19–associated pneumonia would benefit the most from a combination of tocilizumab and dexamethasone."


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