A study has revealed the effectiveness of the rheumatoid arthritis drug when used on COVID-19 patients. The high dose of anakinra was quite safe to use and the drug has shown significant clinical improvements in the patients' recovery from the infection.

Milan-based San Raffaele Hospital hosted this experiment where the patients were studied for 21 days. They were given high-doses of the drug , the infusions at 10mg/kg body weight, which  helped their respiratory system to improve and also led to the reduced signs of cytokine storm in 72 percent of the patients. The survival rate was 90 percent and five of them (17 percent) needed mechanical ventilation.

Twenty-nine patients were kept under observation for the drug experiment and they received standard care along with anakinra, according to the study published in The Lancet Rheumatology Journal. The ones chosen were severely ill belonging to an average age of 62 and suffered from preexisting medical conditions, leading to a high risk of COVID-19 death. These 29 patients’ health was compared to the 16 inmates who received standard care only i.e. non-invasive ventilation (CPAP), lopinavir/ritonavir and hydroxychloroquine.

“Until a vaccine is available, we urgently need to find a way to help people survive the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, and to do that without overwhelming the intensive care capacity of hospitals,” Unit of Immunology, Rheumatology, Allergy and Rare Diseases head at San Raffaele Hospital and Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Italy, Prof. Lorenzo Dagna said. “A treatment that has already met strict safety tests and that is available in sufficient quantities to meet the needs of the current pandemic is ideal.”

Dr. Giulio Cavalli from the same unit of the hospital said that the results are quite interesting and there should be controlled testing done in large randomized trials to explore the drug’s effectiveness. The drug is already an approved one by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency for treating rheumatoid arthritis.

The authors of the study agree that the drug blocks the proinflammatory cytokine IL-1 and it is normally safe in treating cytokine storm syndromes. They noted that when compared to the other agents for cytokine-blocking, anakinra has a strong safety record along with a short half-life, which makes it suitable to be used for patients who are critically ill.

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