EU agency examines Roche arthritis drug as possible COVID-19 treatment

Europe's drugs regulator said on Monday (16 August) that it was evaluating the use of Roche's arthritis drug, Actemra, in hospitalised adults with severe COVID-19, in its latest review of a potential coronavirus treatment.

Europe’s drugs regulator said on Monday (16 August) that it was evaluating the use of Roche’s arthritis drug, Actemra, in hospitalised adults with severe COVID-19, in its latest review of a potential coronavirus treatment.

Tocilizumab, sold by the pharmaceutical giant Roche as Actemra and RoActemra, has shown promise in clinical trials in treating COVID-19, and was approved by health regulators in the United States in June for emergency use in hospitalized COVID-19 patients who needed oxygen.

A major trial in February showed that tocilizumab cut the risk of death among patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19, shortened the time to recovery and reduced the need for mechanical ventilation.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) will carry out an accelerated assessment of the drug, including results from four large studies, it said in a statement. The outcome is expected in mid-October.

The EMA is also evaluating an application for an arthritis drug developed by Sweden’s Sobi to treat COVID-19 in adults with pneumonia, and Eli Lilly’s rheumatoid arthritis drug Olumiant to treat hospitalised COVID-19 patients receiving oxygen.

Other treatments under a rolling review in the European Union include antibodies or antibody cocktails developed by Eli Lilly, Celltrion and Regeneron, and one jointly developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology.

Gilead’s remdesivir is the only drug currently authorised to treat COVID-19 in the European Union.

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