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Covid-19: Arthritis drug trial for severe illness is stopped early after increase in deaths

BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n186 (Published 21 January 2021) Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n186

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Effect of tocilizumab on clinical outcomes at 15 days in patients with severe or critical covid-19

  1. Elisabeth Mahase
  1. The BMJ

A trial testing whether the arthritis drug tocilizumab plus standard care could improve outcomes for patients with severe or critical covid-19 has been stopped early after an increase in deaths.1

Just 129 patients (average age 57; 68% male) had been enrolled in the trial when the data monitoring committee recommended that it should be stopped. This was due to 11 of 65 patients (17%) in the tocilizumab group dying by day 15, compared with two of 64 (3%) in the standard care only group (odds ratio 6.42 (95% confidence interval 1.59 to 43.2)).

The trial results, published in The BMJ,1 seem to contradict earlier observational studies that reported a benefit of tocilizumab. Recent results from the REMAP-CAP trial showed that, when …

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