A DRUG normally used to treat arthritis has cured 95 per cent of patients struck down with coronavirus, claim startling new reports.
Tocilizumab – which is marketed as Actemra – is normally taken by those crippled with arthritis to help reduce chronic inflammation.
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However it’s now claimed Chinese doctors gave it to a sample of patients during the peak of the outbreak and say nearly all were discharged from hospital within a fortnight.
Beijing has already approved the “wonder drug” to treat coronavirus sufferers with serious lung damage caused by the inflammation.
And the Federal Drugs Adminiustration in the US has already given the go ahead for trials to be carried out on patients.
However, no patients in the UK are thought to have taken the drug yet – even in clinical trials, reports the Mail Online.
The drug – manufactured by Swiss giant Roche – works by reducing levels of certain proteins in the body which people with rheumatoid arthritis have too much of.
Medics in China trialed tocilizumab to combat an overreaction of the immune system witnessed in some of those struck down with the killer virus.
The shocking condition is seen as a major factor behind catastrophic organ failure which has lead to death in some patients.
Doctors in the outbreak centre of China first used the drug last month on those with “severe and critical’ symptoms” and they say the results were astounding.
Within a few days, patients’ fever returned to normal and all other symptoms improved remarkably, Dr Xiaoling Xu and colleagues report.
Fifteen of the 20 trial patients were able to have their oxygen intake lowered within days and 19 patients were eventually discharged.
The other patient is recovering well, the study claims.
CT scans also showed damage to the lungs reduced significantly around the fourth and fifth day of treatment.
The report authors conclude: ‘Tocilizumab is an effective treatment in severe patients of COVID-19, which provided a new therapeutic strategy for this fatal infectious disease.’
Roche, which donated £1.5m worth of Actemra during February, said the trial was initiated independently by a third party with the aim of exploring the efficacy and safety of the drug in coronavirus patients.
It added that there was currently no published clinical trial data on the drug’s safety or efficacy against the virus.
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More than 3,000 people have died and 93,000 have been infected by the novel coronavirus thought to have originated in Wuhan, China.
Since Actemra’s approval a decade ago, it has become a go-to drug against other inflammatory conditions, including cytokine storms in cancer patients.
In 2012 it helped save the life of a young US girl, the first child to be treated for leukaemia with Novatis’ Kymriah, from a post-treatment rush of IL-6 protein.