Better Together

A researcher works in the Monoclonal Antibody Discovery Lab at Toscana Life Sciences Foundation in Siena, Italy. February 22, 2021. Image: Gianluca Panella/Getty
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A researcher works in the Monoclonal Antibody Discovery Lab at Toscana Life Sciences Foundation in Siena, Italy. February 22, 2021. Image: Gianluca Panella/Getty

The WHO has endorsed a duo of rheumatoid arthritis drugs for treating COVID-19 after they showed promising results in reducing the risk of death and the need for mechanical ventilation.
 
Earlier in the pandemic, researchers suspected that the monoclonal antibodies—tocilizumab and sarilumab—could inhibit deadly immune system overreactions in COVID-19 patients, but individual study results were underwhelming, CIDRAP reports.

However, when combining results from 27 randomized trials covering some 11,000 patients in 28 countries, the drugs revealed their promise.
 
Compared to corticosteroids steroids alone, hospitalized patients who also received one of the antibodies saw:

  • A 17% reduction in death

  • 21% reduced risk of mechanical ventilation  

 
Lingering questions: How does this intervention compare to others and what’s the threshold for using it, an accompanying commentary notes.
 
And, of course, access issues: “Given the extent of global vaccine inequity, people in the lowest income countries will be the ones most at risk of severe and critical COVID-19. Those are the people these drugs need to reach,” said Janet Diaz of WHO's health emergencies program.

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