An arthritis drug may actually save lives in severe cases of coronavirus, according to a report.
Tocilizumab — which is sold under the brand names RoAcemtra and Actemra to help treat rheumatoid arthritis — showed “clinical benefit” in patients who had the virus according to an unpublished study conducted by Paris university hospital trust, Canada’s CTV News reported.
The drug was used in a study of 129 patients who had moderate-to-severe viral pneumonia as a result of COVID-19. Half of the patients were given two shots of the medicine — which sells for $870 a dose — along with antibiotics, while the other half were given the normal antibiotic treatment, the outlet reported.
The patients who were given tocilizumab were less likely to die and less likely to need to be put on life support compared to the control group, researchers found.
Tocilizumab may prevent cytokine storms — severe reactions to foreign bodies that causes the immune system to attack healthy cells, researchers found. Cytokine storms occur in severe cases of COVID-19 and can be deadly, CTV News reported.
While the study has not yet been published and further research needs to be done on possible side effects, the hospital released the preliminary results “for public health reasons,” CTV reported.
On Monday, worldwide cases of COVID-19 reached three million. About one third of those are found in the US with cases topping 1 million Tuesday.