17.02.2021 change 17.02.2021

Risk of death in patients with a cytokine storm due to COVID-19 three times lower after administration of tocilizumab

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The latest SARSTer study shows that tocilizumab reduces the risk of death three times in patients with a cytokine storm in the course of COVID-19.

The results of the SARSTer study were published by the medical preprint server medRxiv. They indicate that tocilizumab, a drug previously used mainly in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, reduces the risk of death by a factor of three in patients with cytokine storm due to COVID-19.

According to Professor Robert Flisiak, President of the Polish Society of Epidemiology and Physicians of Infectious Diseases and programme coordinator, the effectiveness of the drug is even greater in hospitalised patients with a particularly severe course of the disease, in whom oxygen saturation is below 90 percent.

In addition, in this group of patients, more than 80 percent reduction in the probability of the need for mechanical ventilation (connection to a ventilator) was observed, as was a significant reduction in the time to clinical improvement.

A cytokine storm is caused by a rapid immune system response to an infection, in this case caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. It is a rapid inflammation that is very detrimental to the course of COVID-19 as it can severely damage lung tissue and even cause death. This can also occur in patients in good general health without comorbidities.

Since the outbreak of the epidemic, specialists have been looking for an effective method of stopping this hyper-response of the body (hypercytokinaemia) to the coronavirus attack.

Professor Flisiak said that SARSTer is a non-interventional research program aimed at assessing the effectiveness and safety of various COVID-19 therapy options used in Poland in patients treated from March 1, 2020. The study was initiated and is carried out under the auspices of the Polish Society of Epidemiology and Physicians of Infectious Diseases.

The obtained data will be analysed depending on a number of baseline parameters and taking into account different endpoints assessing the effectiveness of the therapy. The study is carried out on the internet platform prepared by Tiba, previously used in the EpiTer-2 and EpiGeneS projects.

Thirty Polish centres treating SARS-CoV-2 infections participate in the project. The program was launched on June 7, 2020, and data of 3,184 patients were entered by February 12, 2021.

The publication is available at: https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.01.28.21249932v1. (PAP)

Author: Zbigniew Wojtasiński

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