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New 'life-saving' Covid treatment can reduce risk of death by 24%

A new ‘life-saving’ coronavirus treatment has been found to reduce the risk of death for ICU patients by 24%.

Drugs normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis will be given to Covid patients after a Government-funded clinical trial produced one of the biggest medical breakthroughs of the pandemic.

Tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death by 24% when used with dexamethasone and given to patients within 24 hours of entering the ICU, while they also reduced time spent in hospital by up to 10 days.

‘Hundreds’ of lives will be saved as patients are treated with the drugs under updated guidance issued tomorrow by the Government and the NHS to trusts.

Professor Anthony Gordon, chair in anaesthesia and critical care at Imperial College London and a consultant in intensive care medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: ‘This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with Covid-19.

‘We found that among critically ill adult patients – those receiving breathing support in intensive care – treatment with these drugs can improve their chances of survival and recovery.

‘At a time when hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 are soaring in the UK, it’s crucial we continue to identify effective treatments which can help to turn the tide against this disease.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘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.’

The REMAP-CAP trial studied 3,900 people suffering from severe Covid in 15 countries.

People who only received dexamethasone had a death rate of 35.8% while this dropped to 25.3% when they were also given either tocilizumab or sarilumab. 

Experts say this means around 24% of people who would otherwise die will be saved by the new treatment. One in 12 people treated with the drugs in ICUs will be saved overall.

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: ‘This is a significant step forward for increasing survival of patients in intensive care with Covid-19.

‘The data shows that tocilizumab, and likely sarilumab, speed up and improve the odds of recovery in intensive care, which is crucial for helping to relieve pressure on intensive care and hospitals and saving lives.’

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