The drug tocilizumab, an intravenous anti-inflammatory used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, reduces deaths among hospitalized patients with coronavirus, according to new results from the RECOVERY study released Thursday by the University of Oxford. The data, as indicated by the institution in a statement, also point out that the combination of this drug and a corticosteroid such as a dexamethasone reduces mortality by almost half in patients with mechanical ventilation and up to a third among those who only require oxygen.

As early as June, the study found that dexamethasone, an affordable steroid, reduces deaths among patients with severe COVID-19. Now, researchers have found that together, both drugs are even more beneficial. In this regard, Professor Peter Horby, one of the leaders of the RECOVERY trial, states that “the double impact of dexamethasone plus tocilizumab is impressive and very welcome. For his part, Professor Martin Landray says that the study “clearly shows the benefits” of both drugs against “the worst consequences” of the coronavirus, “improving survival, shortening hospitalization and reducing the need for mechanical ventilators.” “Combined, the impact is substantial,” he says.

Tocilizumab “reduces the risk of death” in severe COVID. According to the note published this Thursday, tocilizumab “reduces the risk of death” when administered to patients admitted with severe COVID-19, at the same time that it shortens the period until they are discharged and reduces the need for mechanical ventilation. The RECOVERY (Randomized Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy) trial has been testing different treatments against the disease caused by the new coronavirus since March last year. As part of this study, tocilizumab was started in April in patients who required oxygen and had inflammation.
A total of 2,022 patients received the drug intravenously and their progress was compared with that of another 2,094 who received only the usual treatment. 82% of the patients were also receiving a systemic steroid, such as dexamethasone.

According to the study, treatment with tocilizumab reduced deaths “significantly”: 29% of those who received it died within 28 days compared to 33% of those who received only the usual treatment. “For every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, an additional life would be saved,” says the note, which indicates that the drug increased the probability of being discharged in 28 days from 47 to 54%. Also, among patients who were not on invasive mechanical ventilation when they started tocilizumab treatment, the drug lowered their risk of needing or dying “significantly” from 38 to 33%. Regarding its administration together with a systemic corticosteroid -such as dexamethasone- the data suggest that in patients with hypoxia and significant inflammation, this combination “reduces mortality by approximately one third” in patients with oxygen and “almost half “in those with mechanical ventilation.