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WHO recommends ‘life-saving’ IL-6 inhibitors for severe COVID-19

Roche's Actemra and Sanofi's Kevzara are included in WHO's updated patient care guidelines

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended IL-6 inhibitors from Sanofi and Roche as ‘life-saving’ drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 patients.

WHO’s updated patient care guidelines now include Roche’s Actemra (tocilizumab) and Sanofi’s Kevzara (sarilumab) for the treatment of patients who are severely or critically ill with COVID-19, particularly when administered alongside corticosteroids.

Both Actemra and Kevzara are IL-6 receptor agonists and are most commonly used to treat anti-inflammatory conditions, including arthritis.

IL-6 is thought to play a role in driving the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of critically and severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The recommendations follow findings from a prospective and living network meta-analysis conducted by WHO, which also considered data from over 10,000 patients enrolled in 27 clinical trials.

According to WHO’s meta-analyses, when Kevzara or Actemra are administered to severely ill or critically ill COVID-19 patients, these drugs can reduce the risk of death by 13% when compared to standard care.

In addition, the risk of needing mechanical ventilation among these critically ill patients drops by 28% with IL-6 inhibitor treatment compared to standard care.

These findings translate to as many as 28 fewer deaths for every thousand critically ill patients, and 23 fewer patients out of a thousand requiring mechanical ventilation.

“These drugs offer hope for patients and families who are suffering from the devastating impact of severe and critical COVID-19. But IL-6 receptor blockers remain inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of the world,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO.

“The inequitable distribution of vaccines means that people in low- and middle-income countries are most susceptible to severe forms of COVID-19. So, the greatest need for these drugs is in countries that currently have the least access. We must urgently change this,” he added.

Earlier this year, a study led by Imperial College London also found that both Actemra and Kevzara cut the risk of death in critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Analysis from the REMAP-CAP trial found that both Actemra and Kevzara reduced mortality by 8.6%, and also improved recovery times among patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

This reflects a reduction in the relative risk of death by 24% when given to patients within 24 hours of entering intensive care.

On average, patients treated with these drugs were able to leave the ICU around a week earlier than those not receiving these treatments.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

7th July 2021

From: Regulatory, Healthcare

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