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New treatment proves effective for sickest COVID-19 patients

Critically ill patients with COVID-19 are less likely to die and will spend less time in intensive care when treated with an arthritis drug, tocilizumab, which reduces inflammation by modifying the immune system.

These are the early findings of an international trial which the Health Research Board provides the funding for in Ireland.  

Welcoming this development Dr Mairead O Driscoll, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board says, 

‘Research is combating COVID-19 from all angles. We have news this week of two potential vaccines which we hope will prevent us getting the disease, but we are also understanding better how to treat COVID-19 as well, which improves COVID patient outcomes and helps reduce pressure on critical care services.’ 

Early results show that treatment with the tocilizumab was 99 per cent more likely to reduce deaths and time spent in intensive care among critically ill patients with severe COVID-19, compared to patients who did not receive the treatment. 

Professor Alistair Nichol, Chair in Critical Care Medicine at University College Dublin and a Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at St Vincent’s University Hospital Dublin, who leads the Irish arm of the trial says: 'These early findings show that a single course of treatment with this immune modulating  drug can significantly improve the outcomes for the most critically ill COVID-19 patients in intensive care. Once we have completed the analysis of the full dataset, we hope these findings will allow critical care teams around the world to improve the outcomes of the sickest COVID-19 patients.'

The trial does not yet know the relative benefits of tocilizumab compared to the other immune modulators. Further data are expected in the coming weeks and months as the trial continues.

For more information you can read the press release issued by Imperial College London who led this international trial.