Roche made news today as research showed its drug (tocilizumab) reduced patients' need for ventilators for those with COVID-19-associated pneumonia. A University of Chicago Medicine team has done separate, independent research on tocilizumab and found similar results in their own phase II trial. The UChicago Medicine team used much lower doses of the drug than Roche used in their trial, and found that the lowest dose appeared just as effective as a five-fold higher dose.
The lower-dose finding could also help extend supplies of the medication that’s typically used for rheumatoid arthritis and could mean COVID patients on lower doses of tocilizumab might have lower risks for infection while getting the same benefit as a higher dosage. In addition to RA, tocilizumab is also used to treat cancer patients with hyperinflammation following CAR T-cell therapy and has shown promise in the treatment of lung inflammation caused by COVID-19 as well as the cytokine storm (cytokine release syndrome or CRS) many patients face.
There's much more research to do and the UChicago Medicine group is still actively exploring the topic with ongoing research that’s underway.
The Chicago team is available to discuss the Roche results as well as their own research and the implications each may have on COVID-19 treatment.