Thousands of NHS patients who need to be hospitalised due to COVID-19 will now be able to receive a life-saving treatment named tocilizumab.
Clinical trials have shown that tocilizumab reduced the risk of death by 14% and reduced the time spent in hospital by five days for patients on oxygen, on top of benefits from dexamethasone. It is hoped the treatment will also help to reduce pressure on hospitals.
Scientists discovered that the drug was effective during the RECOVERY clinical trial, which was run by the University of Oxford and funded by the UK government through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
Reducing COVID-19 deaths
The latest findings from the RECOVERY trial show that a large group of patients can benefit from the drug if it is given to those outside of intensive care with oxygen deficiency and who are showing signs of worsening.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Today’s excellent news is further proof the UK is at the forefront of the global mission to find safe and effective treatments for this terrible virus. I want to thank all those who have played a part in generating these tremendous results – from the British scientists and researchers behind the trial, to the thousands of patients who took part across the country.
“We are working quickly and closely with colleagues across the health system and sector to ensure every NHS patient who needs this treatment should be able to access it – reducing further pressures on the NHS and potentially saving thousands of lives.”
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “These results present another important advance in our fight against COVID-19 and are good news for patients and clinicians around the world – it’s a combination of both effective therapeutics and vaccines that will mean an end to this pandemic. The data published today mean many more patients in hospital with COVID-19 will have access to a proven treatment, speeding up their recovery and reducing the risk of mortality significantly.
“It’s because of the UK’s world-class clinical trials infrastructure, including NIHR infrastructure in NHS hospitals, and the generosity of UK patients to volunteer even though they are ill themselves, that trials like RECOVERY are able to deliver definitive evidence that will save lives, and I am hugely grateful to all those involved.”