Tocilizumab for coronavirus: Drug calming ‘cytokine storm’ may lower risk of COVID-19 death, says study  |  Photo Credit: iStock Images
Chicago:Critically ill COVID-19 patients who received intravenous tocilizumab that calms an overreacting immune system were 45 per cent less likely to die overall, and were more likely to be out of the hospital or off a ventilator one month after treatment compared with those who didn’t receive the drug, according to a study posted on the website of the University of Michigan (UM) on Monday.
The UM researchers based the conclusions on a thorough look back at data from 154 critically ill patients treated at Michigan Medicine, UM’s academic medical center, during the first six weeks of COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival in Michigan from early March to late April. The analysis looked at patients’ records through late May.
During the time, when little was known about what would help COVID-19 patients on ventilators, about half of the studied patients received tocilizumab and half did not. Most received it within the 24-hour period surrounding their intubation.
By the end of the 28-day period after patients went on a ventilator, 18 per cent of those who received tocilizumab had died, compared with 36 per cent of those who had not. When adjusted for health characteristics, this represented a 45 per cent reduction in mortality. Of those still in the hospital at the end of the study period, 82 per cent of the tocilizumab patients had come off the ventilator, compared with 53 per cent of those who didn’t receive the drug.
In all, 54 per cent of the tocilizumab patients had developed a secondary infection, mostly ventilator associated pneumonia; 26 per cent of those who didn’t receive tocilizumab developed such infections. Such “superinfections” usually reduce the chance of survival for COVID-19 patients.