Researchers studied tocilizumab to treat patients with COVID-19 have not found any benefit to the drug, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Tocilizumab suppresses the immune system and is used to treat moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis.

The researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston studied 243 adults who were hospitalized with moderately severe COVID-19. The patients had high levels of inflammation in addition to two of these signs: a fever of over 38 degrees Celsius (100.4 degrees Fahrenheit), pneumonia, or the need for supplemental oxygen.

Two-thirds of the patients receiving tocilizumab and the other third a placebo. The objective was to see if patients receiving the study drug would be less likely to need a ventilator to help them breathe.

The results showed that the drug made no difference between the two groups. Patients from both groups were just as likely to need a ventilator. There was also no difference in how quickly patients recovered from the illness.

The authors wrote that their results went contrary to what open-label trials and nonrandomized case series found, which was these drugs could be helpful. This trial was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, which meant neither the patients nor the staff knew who received the study drug and who received the placebo.