Good news from covid-19 wards is hard to come by these days. But the results from clinical trials of two 'strikingly effective' drugs improves the prognosis, for both patients and hospitals, reports The Economist.
The two drugs, called tocilizumab and sarilumab, are currently used to reduce inflammation in patients with arthritis. They are both made of antibodies that block the effect of interleukin-6, a protein that stokes the immune response and has been prominent in patients with covid-19.
In trials, these two arthritis drugs cut the mortality rate by about a quarter, and both worked equally well. Moreover, in further good news, the patients treated with these drugs recovered faster and were discharged from hospital seven to ten days earlier. The reduction in hospital stays would, of course, free up lots of ICU beds.
The NHS will start using tocilizumab immediately for covid-19 patients at ICUs. Hospitals already have supplies of the drug and the government is working with Roche, a drug manufacturer that makes it, to increase supplies. For now, Britain has banned exports of both tocilizumab and sarilumab. The trial results bring a ray of hope for patients, exhausted health workers and the millions of people under lockdown.
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