Tocilizumab drug shows coronavirus treatment promise, doctor says


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A California pulmonary disease specialist has voiced promise in tocilizumab drug treatment for critically ill coronavirus patients.

Dr. Imran Sharief recalled a patient in their 30s, exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath and fever when conditions started suddenly deteriorating. The patient was depending on maximum support from a ventilator upon treatment with tocilizumab.

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“We were already cautious and we were worried because this patient was extremely young so we started the medication right away,” Sharief told Fox News.

He reported seeing a response within 72 hours and after five days, transitioned the patient off the ventilator and into a regular ward.

Coronavirus invades the body through receptors in the nasal passages and airway, Sharief explained. Inflammatory mediators, such as Interleukin 6 (IL-6), then promote an inflammatory response which causes organ damage.

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If doctors treat critically ill patients, who meet a required set of criteria, with tocilizumab early, Sharief said “this drug is going to be very effective in preventing organ damage.”

The drug reportedly treats coronavirus by blocking the receptors and preventing the release of inflammatory mediators.

“I would suggest to my colleagues that once you see a deteriorating patient, a rapid deterioration in clinical status with high oxygen requirement or on the ventilator, try to start the medication as quickly as possible within first 12-24 hours,” Sharief said.

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Delays in treatment will likely lessen the drug’s impact and worsen patients’ outcomes, he said.

Tocilizumab is a known drug typically used to treat various forms of arthritis. It is an experimental treatment method for coronavirus patients.

Most of Sharief’s patients who receive the drug are on ventilators due to required drug usage criteria calling for patients in critical care. Additional criteria, among others, maintain that Tocilizumab cannot be administered to pregnant patients and eligible patients have acute respiratory distress syndrome, ARDS, or “impending respiratory compromise.”



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