Potential treatment discovered for critically ill COVID patients

Potential treatment discovered for critically ill COVID patients
A study found that tocilizumab, which suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation, may be effective in treating the most seriously ill with COVID-19. (Reuters/File Photo)
Short Url
Updated 20 November 2020

Potential treatment discovered for critically ill COVID patients

Potential treatment discovered for critically ill COVID patients
  • Arthritis drug may save lives of patients in intensive care: Imperial College London team
  • UK govt hails ‘fantastic news,’ but some experts warn it could be too early to celebrate

LONDON: A drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could be a lifesaver for COVID-19 patients in intensive care, according to preliminary results from a new study led by researchers at Imperial College London.

The study found that tocilizumab, which suppresses the immune system and reduces inflammation, may be effective in treating the most seriously ill, in what the British government has called “fantastic news.”

The study’s results have yet to be published and fully peer reviewed, but Prof. Anthony Gordon, chairman in anaesthesia and critical care at Imperial, said: “These early findings show that treatment with this immune-modulating drug is effective for critically ill COVID-19 patients in intensive care units.”

He added: “When we have the results available from all participants, we hope our findings will offer clear guidance to clinicians for improving the outcomes of the sickest COVID-19 patients.”

More than 2,000 COVID-19 patients in 15 countries were given tocilizumab and other immune-modulating drugs as part of the trial.

If tocilizumab is proven to be effective, it is likely to join dexamethasone, which reduces the chance of patients on ventilators from dying by around 30 percent, as an important therapeutic intervention for healthcare workers to fight the virus.

But further research is needed to determine the effect tocilizumab has on overall survival and how long a patient will still need to spend in intensive care.

Some professionals have warned that it is too soon to celebrate. “This most recent evidence for a benefit of tocilizumab comes from preliminary unpublished data and should be treated with caution,” said Derek Hill, professor of medical imaging science at University College London.

“However, if the initial results stand up to full analysis and peer review, then it could well be a valuable addition to the armory of treatments that can help improve outcomes for COVID patients.”


Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal

Updated 04 December 2020

Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal

Germany wants broader Iran nuclear deal
  • Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected talk of reopening the 2015 deal

BERLIN: Germany said Friday that a new broader Iran nuclear accord must be reached to also rein in Tehran’s ballistic missile program, warning that the 2015 deal was no longer enough.
“A form of ‘nuclear agreement plus’ is needed, which also lies in our interest,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, told Spiegel magazine in an interview.
“We have clear expectations for Iran: no nuclear weapons, but also no ballistic rocket program which threatens the whole region. Iran must also play another role in the region.”
“We need this accord because we distrust Iran,” he added.
The 2015 nuclear deal — known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for curbs on its nuclear program.
The European Union and the United States were key signatories in the deal but US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from the accord in 2018 and has reimposed crippling sanctions on Tehran as part of a “maximum pressure” campaign.
President-elect Joe Biden has signalled that Washington could rejoin the deal as a starting point for follow-on negotiations if Iran returned to compliance.
But Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has rejected talk of reopening the 2015 deal, saying on Thursday: “We will not renegotiate a deal which we negotiated.”
He added that Western powers should look to their own behavior before criticizing Iran.
He also complained at what he characterised as a lack of European outrage at the assassination of one of Iran’s leading nuclear scientists, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, outside Tehran last week — an attack Tehran has blamed on Israel.
Decades old US-Iranian tensions dramatically escalated after Trump walked out of the deal.
In recent months, alarm has also grown over Iran’s regional activities through proxies in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, which the West says destabilizes the region.