Covid-19: Tocilizumab, an arthritis drug licensed to treat severe cases

This anti-inflammatory must be administered with steroids to patients with a severe form of Covid-19, with prior authorization from the European Medicines Agency.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) gave the green light on Monday, December 6, to the use of tocilizumab, a treatment for arthritis, in hospitalized patients with a severe form of Covid-19, believing that it reduced their mortality.

The anti-inflammatory drug manufactured by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche, sold under the name RoActemra in Europe, should be administered with steroids to this category of patients, the European Union regulator concluded, thus following in the footsteps of the ‘World Health Organization and the United States.

The EMA has recommended extending the use of tocilizumab to adults with Covid-19 who are receiving “systemic” steroid therapy and who need supplemental oxygen or mechanical ventilation. The European Commission must now officially follow the recommendation of this Amsterdam-based regulatory authority.

Study in 4000 patients

Previously possible for the treatment of arthritis in adults and children, tocilizumab works by suppressing a dangerous “cytokine storm,” an overreaction of the immune system to the coronavirus.

According to the EMA, a study of more than 4,000 patients severely affected by Covid-19 showed that this drug, administered intravenously or by injection, had reduced the risk of death and the length of hospitalization.

But it should be prescribed at the same time as corticosteroids because “increased mortality cannot be ruled out” if used without them, he stressed.

This authorization is in addition to all the tools to combat Covid-19 available in the European Union, which already has four vaccines, two antibody treatments, including Roche’s Regeneron, and a green light for the emergency use of the developed pill. by the Merck laboratory. This antiviral, called molnupiravir, works by decreasing the ability of a virus to replicate itself, which slows down the disease.

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