France's AP-HP says Roche's Actemra limits need for ICU in COVID-19 patients

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A sign at a diagnostics site for Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche is seen as the company said problems at a new warehouse delayed the dispatch of some products
A sign at a diagnostics site for Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche is seen as the company said problems at a new warehouse delayed the dispatch of some products

PARIS (Reuters) - A drug that fights inflammation made by Switzerland's Roche limits the need for a transfer to intensive care units for patients suffering from moderate to severe COVID-19 related pneumonia, Paris hospitals group AP-HP said on Wednesday.

Roche's Actemra, also called RoActemra, is a rheumatoid arthritis medicine that fights inflammation that the company has redirected to patients infected with the new coronavirus.

Wednesday's findings, from a trial launched earlier this year, echo data from another phase III trial done in several countries including the United States in which patients getting Actemra were less likely to need ventilators or die than those who got a placebo.

Some 130 patients with a median age of 64 years were included in the trial with 67 on standard of care alone and 63 on standard of care associated with the medicine, whose generic name is tocilizumab.

"The percentage of patients who had been discharged from hospital by day 28 was higher in the tocilizumab group than in the standard treatment group: 83% versus 73%," AP-HP said.

Roche's drug has seen escalating sales this year as more doctors use it to fight inflammation triggered by COVID-19, though another, earlier study of the medicine showed it failed to help patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia.

The final results from the French trial were published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal (https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2772187).

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont;Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)