COVID-19: New ‘life-saving’ treatment can reduce risk of death by 24%, government announces

Drugs typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis are now set to be given to COVID patients in intensive care with the hope they could save hundreds of lives.

Results from a government-funded clinical trial, published on Thursday, showed using the drugs reduced the relative risk of death by 24%, when administered to patients within 24 hours of entering intensive care.

It was revealed that tocilizumab and sarilumab can also reduce the time spent in hospital by up to 10 days for COVID patients.

Most of the data came from when the drugs were used in addition to a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone, which has previously been found to be an effective treatment for severely-ill coronavirus patients.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock hailed “yet another landmark development” in the fight against COVID-19, with it hoped the roll-out of the new treatments will help reduce the current severe pressures on hospitals.

The government and the NHS will issue new guidance on Friday across the UK to encourage hospitals to immediately use tocilizumab in their treatment of COVID-19 patients admitted to intensive care units.

Supplies of the drug, which along with sarilumab is typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, are already available in UK hospitals.

The Department of Health and Social Care said they will work closely with drug maker Roche, which manufactures tocilizumab.

Mr Hancock added: “The UK has proven time and time again it is at the very forefront of identifying and providing the most promising, innovative treatments for its patients.

“Today’s results are yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic and, when added to the armoury 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.

“I am hugely proud of the significant role our NHS and its patients have played in this international trial.”

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