Two more drugs, tocilizumab and sarilumab, have been identified as being suitable for treating Covid-19. Researchers have said they can reduce the number of deaths by up to a quarter in patients suffering from severe disease.
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The drugs are anti-inflammatory medicines which are administered via a drip. Researchers have said that they can save an extra life for every 12 patients who receive these treatments. Crucially, the drugs can also reduce the time patients spend in intensive care, which may help reduce the pressure on hospitals. These findings come after a trial period carried out in NHS intensive care units.
The drugs have been found to work equally as well as the other. They can also add to the beneficial effects of the steroid dexamethasone, which is already being used to treat Covid-19 patients. Doctors have been advised to administer the drugs to any patients showing signs of rapid deterioration, even if they have already received dexamethasone.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said, "The UK has proven time and time again it is at the very forefront of identifying and providing the most promising, innovative treatments for its patients.
"Today's results are yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic and, when added to the armoury of vaccines and treatments already being rolled out, will play a significant role in defeating this virus."
Since the discovery, the government has been working with the manufacturer of the drugs to ensure that as many Covid-19 patients as possible continue to receive the drugs, in an effort to save more lives.
Although the drugs are expensive, costing between £750 to £1,000 per patient, they are argued to be cheaper than a hospital bed, which is currently estimated to cost around £2,000 per patient.
Imperial College London’s Professor Anthony Gordon is the lead researcher on the trial. He told the BBC that "for every 12 patients you treat with these drugs you would expect to save a life. It's a big effect."
NHS national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis, added, "The fact there is now another drug that can help to reduce mortality for patients with Covid-19 is hugely welcome news and another positive development in the continued fight against the virus."