Actemra Trials Show Promising Results in Treating COVID-19 Patients

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The coronavirus has been on a rampage throughout the world after becoming a pandemic in less than three months, claiming lives left, right and center. The researchers around the globe are toiling to develop a vaccine on a massive level for the whole world to fight back with the new, deadly, and highly infectious severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). But currently, there is no clear evidence that any pharmaceutical drug with proven clinical efficacy has been developed that can fight against the deadly virus.

Despite all the hopelessness of not having a drug that can beat the virus, there is a drug known as ‘Actemra’ which is continuously showing positive outcomes in treating those patients who are suffering from COVID-19 from which nearly 6 million people have been attacked and more than 362,500 deaths have been reported, around the globe.

While there is a huge disaster caused by the deadly virus, more than 2.4 million people have successfully fought against the coronavirus and recovered, according to the data excluded from two main resources including Johns Hopkins University (JHU) live update about coronavirus and Worldometer.

Source: Worldometer

However, where so many drugs are being in a state of trials, Actemra which is also known as tocilizumab showed positive results against the coronavirus.

Actemra is a drug used to treat mainly rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and other conditions such as pediatric juvenile idiopathic arthritis (pJIA), systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (sJIA), giant cell arteritis (GCA) and CAR-T cell-induced cytokine release syndrome (CRS).

The drug has been approved in 2010 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 116 countries and can be prescribed in both subcutaneous (SC) and intravenous (IV) formulations. It worked as an activator of inflammatory pathways that contributes to the signs and symptoms of inflammatory autoimmune conditions.

Currently, the drug is in phase III of trials. A Swiss multinational healthcare company ‘Roche’ and another research-based biopharmaceutical company ‘Gilead’ are working together on checking the efficacy and safety of the drug. Therefore, the teams from both companies have planned to do a comparison between the effectiveness of remdesivir alone and a remdesivir-Actemra regimen in 450 patients diagnosed with severe COVID-19.

A meeting held on last Thursday led by Dr. Yasmin Rashid, Punjab Health Minister approved the use of Actemra mainly for those patients who are at high risk to develop lung complications and an abnormal level of IL-6 in the blood that cause inflammatory conditions. The drug will only be prescribed on the recommendation of pulmonologists.

Dr. Yasmin mentioned: “We will review the effects of new medicines and positive developments, if any, after 10 days, while strictly maintaining that the medicines must not be allowed for use without the permission of the Corona Experts Advisory Group (CEAG)”.

Dr. Asad Aslam Khan, the chief executive of Lahore’s Mayo Hospital, has also put an impression on the use of the drug on critical patients in ICUs:

“My hospital had reported an 80% to 90% recovery rate after doctors prescribed this drug to critical patients of Covid-19 brought there with damaged lungs and severe pneumonia”.

Previous Work on Tocilizumab (Actemra)

Earlier, a biotechnology corporation ‘Genentech’ mentioned that FDA approved a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 clinical trial in collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Both of the companies designed the clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of intravenous Actemra in adult patients of severe COVID-19.

The drug cannot directly kill the virus. However, it showed promising results by blocking IL-6 receptors that result in a quick normal temperature from a high fever and it also improved the functioning of the respiratory system. Therefore, it can be used to reverse the inflammation from the lungs and save lives.

Previously on March 3, 2020, China’s National Health Commission of People’s Republic of China (CNHCPRC) has been included Actemra in China’s latest version of diagnosis and treatment guidelines for COVID-19 patients.

In an initial clinical trial, Actemra was used in 20 patients severely suffering from COVID-19. The results of the drug suggested that the body temperatures of all the patients dropped within one day. Nineteen of the patients were discharged from the hospital within two weeks, and one got better.

Zhou Qi, deputy secretary-general and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences said: “The drug Tocilizumab has been found effective to block the inducement of the inflammatory storm”.

Still, there is an immense need for work to introduce a drug with proven clinical efficacy that can beat the deadly virus.

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