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A close-up of a gloved hand pulling a test tube out of a rack.By UNC Health

In the first COVID-19 case series of tocilizumab in the United States, Carolina researchers and students report that the drug tocilizumab should be used judiciously until randomized clinical trials determine the drug’s true efficacy for severely ill patients.

In the ongoing battle against COVID-19, doctors are treating severely ill patients with various drugs, one of which is tocilizumab, which blocks the cytokine interleukin-6 (L-6) receptor. For the first time in the United States, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill report that the drug did not show clear benefit to 11 severely ill patients and should be used with caution. Doctors should not rely on the drug as a solution for all severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Their findings suggest the dire need for detailed data from large randomized clinical trials of tocilizumab and other potential treatments.

“We all want a silver bullet solution for COVID-19, especially for our most critically ill patients,” said senior author Dr. Jonathan Parr, assistant professor in the division of infectious diseases at the UNC School of Medicine. “Tocilizumab dramatically reduces select inflammatory markers, but it remains unclear whether its activity leads to equally dramatic effects on clinical outcomes, especially in critically ill patients.”

By UNC Health

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