Good news in the search for a Covid cure! Oxford University has said in a release they have published, this Thursday February 11, the first results of Recovery clinical trial on Tocilizumab, a medication based on monoclonal antibodies usually used in rheumatology. According to these results, this treatment is said to dramatically reduce deaths in patients in intensive care, serisously infected by the virus, preventing them from being placed in breathing support. More complete results are to be released soon.
All in all, since April 2020, 2,022 patients have been given the treatment, intravenously, as part of the Recovery trial. The group - part of a randomized controlled trial - has been compared with 2,094 other patients, given another product the efficacity of which has been already set by Recovery, namely dexamethasone. And results are speaking for themselves: only 29% of deaths have been noticed for the Tocilizumab group, against 33% for the group given dexamethasone. Searchers take the study up a notch: by mixing both treatments, it "reduces mortality by about one third for patients requiring simple oxygen and nearly one half for those requiring invasive mechanical ventilation", they explain.
The study has precedents already. In France, back to April 2020, the AP-HP has revealed the first results of a clinical trial led in 13 hospitals in France. Several hospitals have developed a promising medication, enabling to reduce the immune runaway of infected patients. It is that very runaway that would be responsible for a large number of admissions in intensive care.
“In order to regulate the immune action and improve the organism’s inflammatory reaction, a natural response to an aggression, the immune system produces and frees molecules names cytokines. For all that, the immune system gets carried away and cause a hyper-inflammatory reaction” medicine department at the Foch hospital explains. “This immune runaway can then be the cause of respiratory distress leading to admission in intensive care”.
To try and block this immune runaway, the clinical trial carried out in 13 hospitals and coordinated by the AP-HP and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research has been conducted on 129 patients hospitalized for mild or serious coronavirus infection, “but not requiring intensive care when checked in”. Among those patients, 65 of them have received the usual treatment mixed with Tocilizumab, a medication usually used in rheumatology to reduce the inflammation as part of some diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis; and the 64 left only got the usual treatment.
The use of Tocilizumab enabled to see in patients treated a clear reduction of the use of mechanic breathing support, in comparison with patients who have not been given it. As a matter of fact, doctors assessed the percentage of patients suffering from coronavirus checked in intensive care or diseased. This rate “considerably decreased” in those who took Tocilizumab, Professor Olivier Hermine, hematologist at the Necker hospital, is happy to say as he is also coordinating this trial named Corimuno-19.
Very promising results, specially since Tocilizumab medication causes very little side effects and is very-well tolerated. “These results should be confirmed in an independent fashion with extra trials” the AP-HP says in a press release published this Monday April 27. Two days later, on Wednesday April 20, Minister of Health Olivier Véran said on Franceinfo that Tocilizumab "is an interesting and serious lead" but "without enough back up to be able to shout eureka and think we have a fully effective medication".
"I take this as a sign of hope. Careful, because you know, I am like French, when I am told a medication works, I think great, we finally have something that works. [But] I have been disappointed several times by studies when they were complete and on an enough number of sick. I asked scientific proofreading committee to check that all data allow us to keep on going that way".
Note the study has to be fully peer-reviewed so that the health authorities can approved its prescription.