JUN 09, 2020 1:03 PM PDT

Arthritis Drug May Reduce COVID-19 Deaths by 45%

WRITTEN BY: Annie Lennon

Researchers from the University of Michigan have found that tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug used to treat arthritis, may also be effective in improving survival rates for COVID-19 patients who require mechanical ventilation. 

The majority of COVID-19 deaths come from terminal respiratory failure. In some cases, COVID-19 causes hyper inflammation from an uncontrolled release of cytokines, immune cells, that ends up attacking the patient's body as well as the infection. A significant number of such 'cytokine storms' result in death.

One reason for interest in tocilizumab is that it blocks IL-6, a molecule in the body that reacts to infection. It can thus theoretically reduce the impact, and chance, of a cytokine storm. 

The first indication that tocilizumab may treat patients with COVID-19 came from France in late April. In a preliminary trial, 64 patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms were treated with the drug alongside standard care and then compared to those receiving only standard care. At the end of the study, the researchers said that those on tocilizumab required significantly less ventilator support than other patients. On top of this, they observed no adverse side effects from the drug that weren't common to those under standard care too. 

A new study from the University of Michigan seems to have echoed these results. In their trial, researchers gave the drug to 78 patients on ventilators. In the end, they found that patients receiving the drug were 45% less likely to die than those who didn't. This is significant considering that over half of those who end up on ventilators die. 

The results come with one caveat, however. As the doctors knew which patients received the drug and which didn't, the researchers warn that their results may have been biased. They say that doctors may have picked people in the tocilizumab group who had a better chance of survival regardless of drug-use. 

To better understand how the drug may affect the treatment of COVID-19, in late May, the drug's manufacturer, Roche, said that it would perform a clinical trial of the drug alongside remdesivir. 



Sources: MIT Technology Review, Science Mag, News Medical

About the Author
University College London
Annie Lennon is a writer whose work also appears in Medical News Today, Psych Central, Psychology Today, and other outlets. When she's not writing, she is COO of Xeurix, an HR startup that assesses jobfit from gamified workplace simulations.
You May Also Like
APR 15, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
First Drug for Sleep Apnea Shows Promise in Patients
APR 15, 2022
First Drug for Sleep Apnea Shows Promise in Patients
A new drug for sleep apnea could reduce breathing pauses during sleep by over 20 per hour. The corresponding study was p ...
APR 21, 2022
Health & Medicine
Inhibiting a Key Signaling Pathway in Immune Cells Slows Alzheimer's Progression
APR 21, 2022
Inhibiting a Key Signaling Pathway in Immune Cells Slows Alzheimer's Progression
Weill Cornell Medicine researchers recently discovered that inhibiting a key signaling pathway in brain cells can lessen ...
MAY 02, 2022
Drug Discovery & Development
Synthetic Coating Improves Survival of Oral Medications During Digestion
MAY 02, 2022
Synthetic Coating Improves Survival of Oral Medications During Digestion
We’re probably all familiar with the (sometimes unpleasant) experience of swallowing pills. Whether ibuprofen for ...
JUN 07, 2022
Health & Medicine
Drug that lowers blood sugar also reduces blood vessel dysfunction caused by aging
JUN 07, 2022
Drug that lowers blood sugar also reduces blood vessel dysfunction caused by aging
Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the leading cause of death globally, taking an estimated 17.9 million lives ...
JUN 14, 2022
Coronavirus
Advances in Latest Coronavirus Research in the 2022 Ongoing Labroots Virtual Event Series
JUN 14, 2022
Advances in Latest Coronavirus Research in the 2022 Ongoing Labroots Virtual Event Series
Labroots hosted its 3rd annual Coronavirus Conference Virtual Event Series on May 4, 2022. The speaker roster for this f ...
JUN 29, 2022
Microbiology
Unleashing the Genetic Power of Ocean Microbes
JUN 29, 2022
Unleashing the Genetic Power of Ocean Microbes
By analyzing over 1,000 samples of the marine environment, researchers have reconstructed the genomes of 25,000 novel mi ...
Loading Comments...