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Arthritis drug may lower risk of Covid-19 mortality, reveals study

NEW DELHI: Tocilizumab, an anti-inflammatory drug used for treating arthritis, helps increase survival among patients suffering from severe Covid-19. India’s first multicentre randomized controlled trial on the use of Tocilizumab to treat the infection has concluded this. The study was conducted at 11 public and private tertiary-care hospitals in the country.

According to the results of the trial published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine, a total of 180 patients were recruited at the centres, 90 of whom received Tocilizumab (TCZ) and standard care, whereas the other 90 received only standard care.

While there was no difference in mortality and need for ventilation among the two groups of patients when moderate and severe categories of patients were considered together, a sub-group analysis of the severe patients in the two groups showed a lower mortality (8/50; 16%) among those who received Tocilizumab compared with those who did not (14/41; 34%) in 28 days.

Dr A S Soin, national lead investigator of the trial and chairman of Medanta Liver Institute, said Tocilizumab was shown to be safe as the reported adverse events did not differ between patients who received the anti-inflammatory drug and those who received standard care.

He added that this was the first phase-3 study to demonstrate that while routine use of TCZ on all hospitalized Covid patients was not warranted, Tocilizumab improved survival among patients with severe symptoms. Earlier, some of the studies suggested showed that the anti-inflammatory drug did not reduce death risk in patients.

Dr Soin said Covid-19 is not going away any time soon. “This study plugs an important gap in knowledge on Covid treatment and gives a clear direction on the timing of the drug. Incidentally, in the last month, two major studies — the RECOVERY Trial from the UK and the REMAP-CAP study — have revealed similar findings that TCZ reduces mortality among patients with severe Covid,” he added.

Apart from Medanta, Fortis, Apollo, Medeor, Nayati, SGPGI Lucknow, BJMC Pune and PGIMS Rohtak also participated in the study.

There is no known cure for Covid-19 as yet. In the absence of any specific treatment, researchers worldwide are experimenting with many existing drugs used for other diseases to re-purpose them for treating the viral infection caused by the novel coronavirus.

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