Roche’s Actemra Improves COVID-19 Survival, Study Claims
The Roche Group’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra (tocilizumab) was found to reduce mortality and improve outcomes for high-risk COVID-19 patients, according to researchers from the UK’s Imperial College London.
The results, which haven’t been peer-reviewed or published yet, evaluated the efficacy of Actemra in COVID-19 patients who received the immune modulator vs. those who didn’t. Key endpoints included whether the drug regimen reduced the need for ventilation and improved mortality and whether it reduced time spent in an intensive care unit (ICU).
The study reported positive data from 303 participants randomized to receive an immunosuppressor, including Actemra and others, compared with those given none. Though the findings released suggest the drug increased patient outcomes, with a 99.75 percent probability that an immune modulator was effective, they do not reveal specific efficacy data. According to the Imperial College, more data are expected “in the coming weeks and months.”
The Imperial College also said the findings demonstrate that AbbVie’s HIV antiviral Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) provided no benefit to critically ill COVID-19 patients.
The global trial, begun on March 20, has enrolled more than 2,000 participants across 260 clinics in 15 countries to evaluate a range of treatment combinations for moderate-to-severe COVID-19 sufferers. The study is being conducted in partnership with the UK’s Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre and the Netherlands-based Utrecht University.
However, previous trials have shown mixed results for Actemra. For example, two studies released in October and published in JAMA Internal Medicine, reported vastly different outcomes in hospitalized COVID-19 patients receiving the drug.
The first found that 27 percent of patients given Actemra within two days of being admitted to an ICU died within 30 days compared with 37 percent who did not take the drug. Meanwhile, a separate study found that Actemra did not reduce mortality at 28 days for hospitalized COVID-19 and pneumonia patients not admitted to an ICU.
In September, the Swiss drugmaker reported phase 3 data showing Actemra reduced the number of coronavirus patients who progressed to mechanical ventilation, but did not meaningfully lower mortality rates (DID, Sept. 21). The drug also failed to show benefit for hospitalized patients in a study completed in July. (DID, July 30). ― Jason Scott