Roche’s Actemra or Sanofi’s Kevzara arthritis drugs have been found to have significantly improve survival rates of patients in intensive care
Treating critically ill Covid-19 patients with Roche’s or Sanofi’s arthritis drugs significantly improves survival rates and reduces the amount of time patients need intensive care, study results showed on Thursday.
The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, showed that the immunosuppressive drugs – Roche’s Actemra, also known as tocilizumab, and Sanofi’s Kevzara, also known as sarilumab – reduced death rates by 8.5 percentage points among patients hospitalized and severely ill with the pandemic disease.
That would mean that for every 12 patients treated with one of the two drugs, an extra life would be saved, said Anthony Gordon, an Imperial College London professor of anaesthesia and critical care who co-led the study.
The data will boost confidence that some existing drugs can be repurposed to help with the pandemic that has killed more than 1.87 million people and crushed global economies.
It also comes as countries struggle to contain two variants of the virus found in South Africa and Britain that are more transmissible and have driven a surge in infections.
The UK government said it would ask doctors treating critically ill Covid-19 patients in hospital intensive care units to begin using the drugs immediately.
“This is a significant step forward for increasing survival of patients,” the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said in a statement.
He said the drugs would be “crucial for helping to relieve pressure on intensive care and hospitals and saving lives.”
Drug companies have been scouring their existing portfolios for possible therapies. So far the generic steroid dexamethasone and Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir have been approved for treating patients with severe symptoms.
The United States has also authorized emergency use of some antibody drugs for non-hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
The data, from around 800 severely ill Covid-19 patients involved in an international study known as the REMAP-CAP trial, showed that the two drugs reduced mortality rates from 35.8% in a control group to 27.3% among patients receiving either tocilizumab or sarilumab.
“That’s a big change in survival,” said Gordon. “They are both lifesaving drugs.”