28th Jan, 2021

Clinical trials show two more treatments which can potentially save lives and cut hospital time

CLINICAL trials have shown two potentially life-saving treatments could cut hospital time by ten days for Covid-19 patients, the Government has announced today.

The two drugs reduce the risk of death by 24 per cent for critically ill patients and time spent in in intensive care by up to ten days.

Results from the Government-funded REMAP-CAP clinical trial show tocilizumab and sarilumab reduced the relative risk of death by a quarter when administered to patients within 24 hours of entering intensive care.

Most of the data came from when the drugs were administered in addition to a corticosteroid, such as dexamethasone – also discovered through Government-backed research through the RECOVERY clinical trial which is already provided as NHS standard of care.

Patients receiving these drugs – usually used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – left intensive care between seven to ten days earlier on average.

The news comes as the UK has more than 30,000 patients in its hospitals with Covid-19 – more than a third higher than there was in April.

The rollout of these treatments could therefore contribute significantly towards reducing pressures on hospitals over the coming weeks and months.

Updated guidance will be issued tomorrow by the Government and the NHS to trusts across the UK, encouraging them to use tocilizumab in their treatment of Coronavirus patients who are admitted to intensive care units.

Supplies of tocilizumab are already available in hospitals across the UK and clinicians will be able to treat all those admitted to intensive care units, potentially saving hundreds of lives. The department is working closely with Roche, which manufactures tocilizumab, to ensure treatments continue to be available to UK patients.

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.”

He added he was hugely proud of the significant role the NHS and its patients had played in the international trial, and was grateful to the outstanding scientists and clinicians behind REMAP-CAP who had brought this treatment to our patients.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam described it as 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.”

In June last year, the UK Government approved dexamethasone as the world’s first treatment proven to reduce mortality for Covid-19.

The REMAP-CAP trial found the rate of death for those in intensive care units on corticosteroids, such as dexamethasone, and respiratory support alone was 35 per cent, which was reduced to 28 per cent when tocilizumab was also administered.

A quarter of all patients in intensive care with Covid-19 have enrolled and continue to volunteer to enrol in the REMAP-CAP trial – all of whom had made a vital contribution to the research needed to beat this disease.

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 £1.2million to support the REMAP-CAP trial.

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.”

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