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Arthritis drug could help save one in 25 Covid patients, experts say

New study found that Tocilizumab cuts death risk and speeds recovery

Experts are pinning their hopes on an arthritis drug to save the lives of many thousands of Covid patients after new research found the treatment can cut the risk of death from the disease by about 15%.

The Oxford University-led study also found that tocilizumab “cut the time spent in hospital by five days when it was given to people ill enough to require help breathing”, The Times reports. And patients were “less likely to need mechanical ventilation”.

“Scientists say the drug could save the lives of one in 25 patients admitted to hospital with coronavirus,” ITV adds.

More than 4,000 patients were involved in the new research, part of the Recovery trial, the world's largest randomised study of potential Covid-19 treatments.

A total of 2,022 patients randomly allocated to receive tocilizumab, while the rest received standard care. The researchers found that 596 (29%) of the patients in the tocilizumab group died within 28 days, compared with 694 (33%) patients in the other group.

The drug also reduced the chance of progressing to invasive mechanical ventilation or death from 38% to 33% among those who were not on invasive ventilation when entered into the trial.

Tocilizumab is typically given to patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and is administered to patients intravenously. 

The drug expected to be used alongside the steroid dexamethasone, which has been used to treat Covid patients for several months. When the two drugs are combined, they help the body’s defences against the disease.

“The double impact of dexamethasone plus tocilizumab is impressive and very welcome,” said Recovery trial co-chief Peter Horby, a professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford University.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has greeted the research findings as “excellent news” and “further proof the UK is at the forefront of the global mission to find safe and effective treatments for this terrible virus”.

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