New research has showed that tocilizumab – a drug usually used to treat arthritis – can cut 1 in 25 deaths for some of the sickest patients hospitalised with coronavirus.
The research also found that the drug could allow people to avoid needing to be put in intensive care because of Covid.
Experts from the nationwide Recovery trial said that when tocilizumab is mixed with the dexamesthasone steroid, it reduces the risk of mortality by four percentage points.
Some hospitals are already using the medicine, with experts saying that around half of people taken to hospital with coronavirus could benefit from the treatment.
Researchers say around half of people admitted to hospital with Covid could benefit from the treatment, adding that the results are “tremendous”.
Professor of medicine and epidemiology from the University of Oxford and joint chief investigator in the Recovery trial, Martin Landray, said: “The results clearly show the benefits of tocilizumab and dexamethasone in tackling the worst consequences of Covid-19 – improving survival, shortening hospital stay, and reducing the need for mechanical ventilators.
“Used in combination, the impact is substantial. This is good news for patients and good news for the health services that care for them in the UK and around the world.”
The researchers carried out a clinical trial with more than 4,000 volunteers, with 2,022 patients randomly allocated to receive tocilizumab with dexamethasone.
In the group who received the new drug compared to the other half of the group that did not, 596 patients died (29%) within 28 days – compared to 694 (33%) patients in the usual care group.
NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis described the results as being another breakthrough in the battle against Covid.