Tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, was found to improve outcomes in severely ill COVID-19 patients.
These results were found from a new trial conducted in hospitals across India. Researchers from the University of Bristol and Medanta Institute of Education and Research in India who led the study, published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, said it adds to existing evidence supporting the drug’s use in critically ill patients.
Conducted in 12 public and private hospitals across India, the COVID India Tocilizumab (COVINTOC) Phase III randomised controlled trial aimed to investigate whether tocilizumab could prevent disease progression and mortality in hospitalised patients with moderate to severe COVID-19.
The authors conclude that while the study does not support the routine use of tocilizumab in adults with COVID-19 it adds to the growing evidence suggesting it may help some severely ill patients.
The trial’s lead co-author, Professor A. V. Ramanan from the University of Bristol’s School of Clinical Sciences, and Consultant Paediatric Rheumatologist at Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, said: “It adds to existing evidence from the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP studies which demonstrate that tocilizumab does have a significant impact on reducing mortality in those with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or being ventilated.”
Lead co-author Dr Arvinder Soin, Chairman of the Medanta Liver Transplantation Institute at Gurugram, India, said: “This study plugs an important gap in knowledge on COVID treatment and clarifies that tocilizumab should be administered to patients in the severe category.”
The trial was conducted across multiple sites under difficult conditions in a country that has the second highest COVID-19 caseload in the world.
The study was funded by Medanta Institute of Education and Research, Roche India, Cipla India, and Action COVID-19 India.