Patients and clinicians at the Royal Free London have played a major role in a study of a new drug shown to reduce the chance of COVID-19 patients in hospital dying by xx.

Initial results of the study into the drug tocilizumab, released today, showinsert some details from the study.

Tocilizumab, which is produced by Roche, is also used to treat juvenile idiopathic polyarthritis, the most common type of arthritis in children under the age of 16. It is also used to treat the side effects of cell therapy used to treat some forms of aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma and for some patients with leukemia.  Some patients with COVID-19 develop breathing difficulties and become seriously unwell because the immune response to the virus has caused severe inflammation in the lungs and elsewhere in the body. Tocilizumab works by dampening down the body’s immune response and reducing inflammation.

The Royal Free Hospital (RFH), which is a specialist centre for infectious diseases, recruited 16 patients to the trial, the largest number of any hospital in Europe. A total of 450 patients were involved in the study worldwide.

Dr Sanjay Bhagani, an infectious diseases consultant who led the trial at the RFH, said: “I’m delighted by the initial results of the study – Whilst we await the full results and the details, this really good news for patients in that we have another drug available to treat them.  This is an additional drug in our toolbox to manage patients with severe manifestations of COVID-19.

“We know this drug is safe, because it has been used to treat patients with autoimmune arthritis. So now we hope we can use it to help save the lives of those with COVID-19 – particularly as we approach winter and a possible second surge.”

Carla Costa, 57, a waxing specialist from Cricklewood, was one of the UK patients recruited to the trial. She spent 33 days at the Royal Free Hospital, 28 of them in ICU.

She said: “My husband got sick first and then me. I had it much worse and finally had to be put into an induced coma to support my breathing. I’m obviously extremely glad to have been part of the trial and hope the drug will help many others. When I woke up I was so, so relieved as I’d had the most terrible nightmares. I know what I went through and how much I suffered but the care I received was absolutely amazing and I am so grateful to the incredible staff who made me feel very, very special. Now I’m just trying to slowly regain my strength and get back to work.”

Pic: Label1/BBC