Roche, Sanofi arthritis drugs reduce death rates among sickest COVID-19 patients

Roche, Sanofi arthritis drugs reduce death rates among sickest COVID-19 patients
A Sanofi logo is seen during the company's annual results news conference in Paris, France, February 6, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 January 2021

Roche, Sanofi arthritis drugs reduce death rates among sickest COVID-19 patients

Roche, Sanofi arthritis drugs reduce death rates among sickest COVID-19 patients
  • Actemra, Kevzara cut patients’ time in intensive care
  • “They are both lifesaving drugs,” says study co-leader

LONDON: Treating critically ill COVID-19 patients with Roche’s Actemra or Sanofi’s Kevzara arthritis drugs significantly improves survival rates and reduces the amount of time patients need intensive care, study results showed on Thursday.
The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, showed that the immunosuppressive drugs — Actemra, also known as tocilizumab, and Kevzara, also known as sarilumab — reduced death rates by 8.5 percentage points among patients hospitalized and severely ill with the pandemic disease.
That would mean that for every 12 patients treated with one of the two drugs, an extra life would be saved, said Anthony Gordon, an Imperial College London professor of anaesthesia and critical care who co-led the study. The data will boost confidence that some existing drugs can be repurposed to help with the pandemic that has killed more than 1.87 million people and crushed global economies.
It also comes as countries struggle to contain two variants of the virus found in South Africa and Britain that are more transmissible and have driven a surge in infections.
The UK government said it would ask doctors treating critically ill COVID-19 patients in hospital intensive care units to begin using the drugs immediately.
“This is a significant step forward for increasing survival of patients,” the UK’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, said in a statement.
He said the drugs would be “crucial for helping to relieve pressure on intensive care and hospitals and saving lives.”
Drug companies have been scouring their existing portfolios for possible therapies. So far the generic steroid dexamethasone and Gilead’s antiviral drug remdesivir have been approved for treating patients with severe symptoms.
The United States has also authorized emergency use of some antibody drugs for non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
The data, from around 800 severely ill COVID-19 patients involved in an international study known as the REMAP-CAP trial showed that the two drugs reduced mortality rates from 35.8% in a control group to 27.3% among patients receiving either tocilizumab or sarilumab.
“That’s a big change in survival,” said Gordon. “They are both lifesaving drugs.”
The results also showed that on average, patients treated with Actemra or Kevzara recovered more swiftly and were able to be discharged from intensive care units around seven to 10 days earlier than those who did not get these drugs.
“This ... could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with COVID-19,” Gordon said. “We’re seeing the actual benefit in terms of survival and quicker recovery.”
Until now, results for Actemra and Kevzara — both a type of drug known as IL-6 receptor antagonists — in treatment trials in patients with COVID-19 have been mixed.
Sanofi said in September that Kevzara — which it produces with partner Regeneron — failed to meet the main goals of a US study testing it in critically ill COVID-19 patients.
In November, Roche said research showed Actemra helped the sickest COVID-19 patients, but it was unclear if it kept people alive or shortened how long they needed intensive care support such as mechanical ventilation, or both.
Gordon noted on Thursday that previous studies had found no clear benefit, but said those trials had included less severely ill patients and started treatment at different stages in the disease course.
“A crucial difference may be that in our study, critically ill patients were enrolled within 24 hours of starting organ support,” he said. “This highlights a potential early window for treatment where the sickest patients may gain the most benefit from immune modulation treatment.”
Thursday’s trial data have not yet been peer-reviewed but were published online on the medRxiv website.


Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of Omicron variant currently on mainland France

Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of Omicron variant currently on mainland France
Updated 15 sec ago

Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of Omicron variant currently on mainland France

Nine confirmed COVID-19 cases of Omicron variant currently on mainland France
PARIS: The French Health Ministry said there were currently nine confirmed cases of the new Omicron coronavirus variant on mainland France, which, according to the government’s top scientific adviser, could become dominant strain of the virus in the country by the end of January.

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa
Updated 03 December 2021

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa

Malaysia detects first omicron case in quarantined traveler from South Africa
  • The 19-year-old woman was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated
  • Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia has detected its first case of the omicron coronavirus variant in a foreign student who was quarantined after arrival from South Africa two weeks ago, its health minister said on Friday.
Authorities had re-tested earlier positive samples after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced omicron as a variant of concern on Nov. 24, minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
The 19-year-old woman, who was asymptomatic and had been vaccinated, had tested positive for COVID-19 on arrival in Malaysia, via Singapore, and was quarantined for 10 days before being released on Nov. 29, Khairy said.
Five other people who shared a vehicle with her prior to her quarantine all tested negative.
Authorities, however, have asked the student along with eight close contacts to undergo further testing after her earlier test samples were confirmed to be the new variant, Khairy added.
An increasing number of countries are reporting cases of the omicron variant, which the WHO has said carries a very high risk of causing surges of infection.
Neighbouring Singapore confirmed two imported cases on Thursday.
This week, Malaysia temporarily banned the entry of travelers from eight southern African countries that have reported the presence of the variant or are considered high-risk.
On Friday, Khairy said Malaysia would immediately imposed further restrictions, including additional tests for vaccinated travelers from Singapore, who are allowed to enter Malaysia without quarantine.


Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 
Updated 03 December 2021

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 

Taliban: Several Iranian guards dead after Nimroz border clashes 
  • Local reports claim Taliban fighters seized Iranian border checkpoints 

KABUL: Taliban authorities said on Thursday that Iranian forces had suffered at least nine casualties during clashes on the Afghanistan-Iran border after fuel smuggling attempts from the Iranian side.

Fighting between the two countries’ respective security forces broke out in Konjak, Nimroz province in southwestern Afghanistan on Wednesday at around midday, and continued until the late evening. Local authorities and witnesses said the Taliban seized three Iranian check posts.

In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said the clashes were triggered by “a misunderstanding at the local level” and that “the situation is now under control with the understanding of both sides.”

The spokesperson for the governor of Nimroz, Salahudin Ayobi, told Arab News tensions had been resolved and the “misunderstanding” had been over fuel smuggling.

“The main issue of this misunderstanding was smuggling fuel to Afghanistan. During this battle at least nine Iranian border forces were killed and injured,” he said, adding that one Taliban fighter was wounded. 

Iranian authorities did not confirm the numbers.

FASTFACT

Nimroz governor spokesperson says clashes erupted over fuel smuggling from Iranian side.

Qiam Mawlawi, a Taliban commander in the Konjak district of Nimroz, said the clash was prompted by the Iranians.

“We responded to their misbehavior,” he said. “Currently the situation has turned back to normal, but we are on standby.”

While Iranian media reported the fighting started following a dispute among residents and denied the capture of border check posts, locals said Taliban forces had crossed the border into Iran.

“The Taliban were able to capture Borjak, Melak and Shah Balak check posts from Iranian forces, and heavy (gun)fire (took place) between both sides,” Abdul Satar, Konjak resident, told Arab News.

Sabrina Zory, a civil activist in Nimroz, said the clashes started when Taliban forces stopped a fuel tanker crossing through Borjak. “

After the fighting began, (the) Taliban entered Iranian soil, and the Taliban fighters were able to capture three (Iranian) check posts,” she said. “According to the reports from the local Taliban who participated in this cross-border fighting, five Iranian border police were killed.”

Iran was among the few countries to keep its embassy in Kabul open after the Western-backed administration collapsed in mid-August, leading to the Taliban seizing control of the country.

Tension on the border between the two, an active smuggling and human trafficking route, has been a long-standing issue.


Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police
Updated 03 December 2021

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police

Attacker dressed like ninja wounds two French policewomen with sword – police
  • A police spokeswoman said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related

PARIS: A man dressed like a ninja attacked and wounded two policewomen with a sword in Cherbourg in northwestern France on Thursday before being shot and captured, a police spokeswoman said.
She said there were no immediate signs that the attack was terrorism-related.
She said the attacker had stolen a vehicle and caused an accident, after which he assaulted two policewomen who had been called to the scene, wounding one in the face and the other in the chin.
The assailant — dressed in black in the style of traditional Japanese ninja fighters — was shot three times by the officers and was flown to hospital by helicopter in serious condition.
The attack happened around 3:45 p.m. (1445 GMT) near a gas station of the Leclerc supermarket chain.
The name and nationality of the attacker were not immediately known.


Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown
Updated 03 December 2021

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown

Armed man outside UN arrested after standoff, lockdown
  • During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm
  • The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident

NEW YORK: The United Nations headquarters in New York City was locked down for several hours Thursday after a man was seen pacing outside one of its main gates with what police said appeared to be a shotgun.
The man, who appeared to be in his 60s, was taken into custody without incident at around 1:30 p.m., about three hours after police said he was first spotted outside a security checkpoint on Manhattan’s First Avenue.
During the standoff, the man held an object pointed at his own throat, possibly a firearm. The gates on the fence that rings the UN complex were closed, and the man didn’t appear to be trying to breach the security perimeter. Police said there was no danger to the public.
People inside UN headquarters were initially told to shelter in place, but were later allowed to move about the complex and come and go from other entrances. The UN General Assembly and Security Council were both in session Thursday.
UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement, “We thank the NYPD for their quick response to the incident and we remain in contact with them as they conduct their investigation.” Dujarric said earlier there was “zero indication” the man was a current or former UN employee.
Details including criminal charges weren’t immediately available.