Also Known As: Tocilizumab, Atlizumab
Tocilizumab, also known as atlizumab, is an immunosuppressive drug, mainly for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis, a severe form of arthritis in children. It is a humanized monoclonal antibody against the interleukin-6 receptor (IL-6R). Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a cytokine that plays an important role in immune response and is implicated in the pathogenesis of many diseases, such as autoimmune diseases, multiple myeloma and prostate cancer. It was developed by Hoffmann–La Roche and Chugai.
China's National Health Commission included the use of tocilizumab in guidelines to treat coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. In March 2020, China approved tocilizumab for the treatment of inflammation in patients with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. As of June 2020, there is no evidence whether this treatment is effective. Chinese health officials say that only 21 patients have been asked to use this medicine. The same month, a randomized study, at 11 locations in China was conducted to compare favipiravir versus tocilizumab versus both.
The Australasian Society for Clinical Immunology and Allergy recommend tocilizumab be considered as an off-label treatment for those with COVID-19 related acute respiratory distress syndrome. It states this because of its known benefit in cytokine storms caused by a specific cancer treatment, and that the cytokine storm may be a contributor to mortality in severe COVID-19.
On 11 March 2020, Italian physician Paolo Ascierto reported that tocilizumab appeared to be effective in three severe cases of COVID-19 in Italy. On 14 March 2020, three of the six treated patients in Naples had shown signs of improvement prompting the Italian Pharmacological Agency (AIFA) to expand testing in five other hospitals. Roche and the WHO have each launched separate trials for its use in severe COVID-19 cases.