COVID-19 Patients in the UK to Receive New Treatments that Reduce Hospitalization
Patients across the United Kingdom (UK) admitted to intensive care units due to COVID-19 are set to receive new treatments that can reduce hospital time by up to 10 days.
The UK’s Department of Health and Social Care announced the results from the government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial showed tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death from COVID-19 by 24 percent when administered to patients within 24 hours of entering intensive care.
Patients receiving these drugs, typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, left intensive care between 7 to 10 days earlier on average. Therefore, this treatment rollout could significantly reduce pressure on hospitals over the coming weeks and months.
Most of the data from this study came when the drugs were administered in addition to a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone, also discovered through UK-backed research through the RECOVERY clinical trial, which is already provided as the standard of care to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
The UK government issued the updated treatment guidance on January 8, 2021, said the press release.
Supplies of tocilizumab are already available in hospitals across the UK, and clinicians will be able to treat all those admitted to intensive care units, potentially saving hundreds of lives. The department is working closely with Roche, who manufactures tocilizumab, to ensure treatments continue to be available to UK patients.
UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Today’s results are yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic and, when added to the armory of vaccines and treatments already being rolled out, will play a significant role in defeating this virus.”
We have worked quickly to ensure this treatment is available to NHS patients without delay, meaning hundreds of lives will be saved.”
In June last year, the UK government approved dexamethasone as the world’s first treatment proven to reduce mortality for COVID-19. The REMAP-CAP trial found that the death rate for those in intensive care units on corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, and respiratory support alone was 35 percent, which was reduced to 28 percent when tocilizumab was also administered.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, added: “The fact there is now another drug that can help to reduce mortality for patients with COVID-19 is hugely welcome news and another positive development in the continued fight against the virus.”
“This signals how the NHS is working all the time to find new treatments and therapies, but the best advice for individuals is to remember the hands, face, space guidance.”
The REMAP-CAP analysis has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Tocilizumab is administered intravenously in a one or two-dose regime. It has been demonstrated to be useful for patients requiring organ support when administered soon after admission to ICU.
Other trials, such as the RECOVERY trial, are assessing efficacy in broader patient groups outside of intensive care settings, but these are still ongoing. REMAP-CAP has not tested the effectiveness of tocilizumab in primary care settings. Tocilizumab will be used to further reduce mortality from COVID-19 and in addition to dexamethasone, which is already standard of care for hospitalized patients receiving supplemental oxygen.
Tocilizumab and sarilumab have already been added to the government’s export restriction list, which bans companies from buying medicines meant for UK patients and selling them for a higher price in another country. This will protect supply for UK patients by enforcing regulatory action on those who disregard the restrictions.
The National Health Service is the umbrella term for the publicly-funded healthcare systems of the UK.
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