New French study on Covid-19 drug ‘provides hope’

A French study on a drug named “anakinra” has shown “encouraging results” and “provides hope” in treating patients with severe forms of Covid-19.

1 June 2020
Front cover of the specialist medical journal The Lancet Rheumatology. A new study has found that a drug named “anakinra” has shown “encouraging results” and “provides hope” in treating patients with severe forms of Covid-19.The study was published this week in specialist medical journal The Lancet Rheumatology
By Connexion journalist

The study suggests that the drug, which is currently used for rheumatic conditions, appears to reduce the risk of death from Covid-19, and means patients with severe forms of the illness are less likely to need a ventilator.

The study was completed by rheumatologist Dr. Thomas Huet and the team at the Groupe Hospitalier Paris Saint-Joseph (14th arrondissement, Paris), and published on May 28 in specialist medical journal The Lancet Rheumatology.

The team injected 52 severe Covid-19 patients with anakinra for a period of 10 days.

The results showed that “anakinra [achieved] significantly reduced requirement for invasive mechanical ventilation and death in patients who received anakinra compared with historical controls who received usual care”.

Of the 52 patients in the study, one quarter either died or required transfer to an intensive care unit. This is in comparison to 73% of the 44 patients who were being cared for in the same institution, who were not given the same drug.

The group that received anakinra also saw a rapid drop in how much extra oxygen they needed after seven days of treatment.

One of the aims of the treatment was to reduce the risk of a “cytokine storm”, which is an often-fatal hyperinflammation condition, due to an overreaction of the body’s immune system when faced with a threat.

Cytokines are proteins that help the body to beat infection; but in some people, excessive levels are released (especially when the virus enters the lungs), causing an often-fatal level of inflammation. It can mean the lungs are unable to produce enough oxygen for the body’s vital organs.

In the journal, Dr. Randy Cron, pediatric rheumatologist and Professor of Pediatrics and Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), USA, wrote: “The significant reduction in mortality associated with anakinra use for Covid-19 in this study is encouraging in these challenging times.”

He added that this drug was well-known among rheumatologists, and that “the choice of anakinra to treat deadly cytokine storms is wise because it has a remarkable benefit-to-side-effect ratio”. The drug “has a well established favourable safety profile”, he wrote, meaning that its benefits are seen to outweigh any potential side-effects.

The scientists concluded that “confirmation of efficacy will require controlled trials”, but in the meantime, Dr. Cron wrote: "Anakinra provides hope for those severely affected by Covid-19."

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Covid-19 in France: What we know (and do not) so far

French tests on Covid drug offer hope for severe cases

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