Patients in intensive care units across the UK will be receiving potentially lifesaving treatments for COVID-19.
The government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial has shown that the drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death in patients in intensive care units with COVID-19 by 24%, within 24 hours of entering the care unit. The results show the drugs could reduce the time that patients spend in intensive care by up to 10 days.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “The fact there is now another drug that can help to reduce mortality for patients with COVID-19 is hugely welcome news and another positive development in the continued fight against the virus. This signals how the NHS is working all the time to find new treatments and therapies, but the best advice for individuals is to remember the hands, face, space guidance.”
Most of the data came from when the drugs were administered in addition to a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone, which is already provided as standard of care to the NHS. The drugs are typically used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and their rollout to COVID-19 patients could help to reduce pressures on hospitals over the coming weeks and months.
The government and the NHS will now be issuing new guidance to NHS Trusts across the country to encourage them to use tocilizumab, which is in plentiful supply in hospitals across the UK, in their treatment of COVID-19.
Health and Social Care 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. I am hugely proud of the significant role our NHS and its patients have played in this international trial, and grateful to the outstanding scientists and clinicians behind REMAP-CAP who have brought this treatment to our patients.”
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.
“This is evidence of the UK’s excellent research infrastructure and life sciences industry advancing global understanding of this disease, which we have done both through our own programme of clinical research and through our ability to make very large contributions to international studies.”
Support also came from the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), its well-established Clinical Research Network and the UK’s Chief Medical Officers. The UK government has, to date, provided £1.2m to support the REMAP-CAP trial.