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Recent news reports say that two drugs normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis could cut the relative risk of death by 24%, and reduce the amount of time patients spend in intensive care.

More specifically, the REMAP-CAP trial showed that IL-6 receptor antagonists tocilizumab and sarilumab improved outcomes, including mortality, if given to critically ill patients with COVID-19 within 24 hours of commencing organ support.

British Society for Rheumatology President Dr Sanjeev Patel says: "The results of the REMAP-CAP trials published as a pre-print is further good news for the management of patients with COVID-19. We await the peer-reviewed publication to give some more reassurance about the validity of these findings."

Dr Patel adds: "It's important to place these results in context. Previous trials have shown no clear evidence that tocilizumab was effective at preventing disease progression, and no evidence of benefit on survival.

"The authors of the REMAP-CAP trial suggest a variety of reasons for the difference between their results and previous trials, such as previously-reported trials including less severely ill patients and some excluding patients already receiving respiratory support.

"They go on say that it may be that the maximum benefit from IL6 inhibition is seen in the most severely ill patients with COVID-19 treated early (within 24 hours), so that developing organ dysfunction can be more readily reversed."