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2021-07-12| COVID-19

WHO Recommends the Use of Sanofi’s and Roche’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Drugs to Cut COVID-19 Deaths

by Rajaneesh K. Gopinath
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The World Health Organization (WHO) recently updated its COVID-19 treatment guidelines, recommending using two rheumatoid arthritis drugs along with corticosteroids to reduce the risk of severe COVID-19. On July 6th, the agency advocated the use of IL-6 inhibitors, Roche’s Actemra, and Sanofi’s Kevzara for cutting COVID-19 deaths.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic, autoimmune disease characterized by the inflammation of joints, with IL-6 playing a key role in development. The pro-inflammatory factor has also been found to cause excessive inflammation of the lungs in patients with severe COVID-19.

 

Reduction in Risk of Severe Disease

WHO assessed over 10,000 COVID-19 patients in 27 clinical trials. Results indicated that severely ill patients administered with Actemra or Kevzara had a 13% lower risk of death than the control group. Patients with drug treatments also showed a 28% reduction in the use of ventilators.

Earlier, Roche’s Phase 3 COVACTA trial showed that Actemra did not improve the symptoms of patients with severe COVID-19 associated pneumonia. Similarly, Sanofi’s Phase 2/3 clinical trial showed that Kevzara is not effective in treating COVID-19 patients. However, both drugs were found to effectively reduce hospitalizations when they were administered to patients with severe COVID-19.

In January, Imperial College London conducted the REMAP-CAP trial in patients with severe COVID-19. Trial results showed that both Actemra and Kevzara, when combined with glucocorticoids, led to positive outcomes in patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) for severe disease. The combo treatment reduced the mortality rate by 8.6%, and the risk of death within 24 hours of those admitted to the ICU by 24%.

Additionally, the recovery time of critically ill patients was also shorter. The average time of treated patients staying in the ICU was 1 week less than that of the control group. Based on these positive results, the UK government had listed Actemra and Kevzara as the recommended drugs for treating severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Professor Anthony Gordon, the head of the REMAP-CAP trial, explained that since the trials conducted by Roche and Sanofi had fewer patients with severe COVID-19, the course of drug treatment was different. In contrast, REMAP-CAP subjects were predominantly affected by severe COVID-19. Therefore, it highlighted the efficacy of both the anti-IL-6 antagonists.

Related Article: Moderna Looks Beyond COVID as it Doses First Patient With mRNA-Based Seasonal Flu Vaccine

 

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