You don’t need to be a seafarer or any type of mariner at all to understand what’s meant behind the expression wind taken out of your sails. Meaning it’s now not so easy to persevere and not become deflated when trying to get past a challenge. Well, the global COVID pandemic is turning out to be one heck of a challenge, and the optimism that came with the promised arrival of COVID vaccines put wind in sails when it came to those who had contracted the virus or were more at risk of getting it.
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But now that new variants are putting the effectiveness of vaccines in question, it’s fair to say that wind has diminished significantly for a lot of people who had hoped for some return to normalness in life. Now here’s where we make a sharp turn in all of this; it might sound like a strange thing to say but fortunately there’s many more people suffering from arthritis all around the world than there are people infected with the virus. That might seem like a strange comparison to make, but hear us out here.
Actemra Tocilizumab is a well-established drug that reduces the pain of inflammation related to rheumatoid arthritis. Let’s not waste any time by saying this very clearly – Actemra Tocilizumab is not a cure for COVID-19 and in the bigger picture you can also understand that a vaccine of any sort is never a cure either. What they do is prevent your from developing the disease after you’ve been infected with the virus.
Off-Label Potential of Actemra Tocilizumab
There are many celebrated off-label uses for Rx drugs, and it seems that now Actemra Tocilizumab is set to join that group. Keep in mind that the flagship erectile dysfunction drug – Viagra – was originally developed to promote better cardiovascular health. There’s a lot of discussion around off-label uses of medication for COVID-19 and that’s something that’s going to be relevant here with the new suggestion that Actemra from Roche is one that can help mitigate the disease’s symptoms.
So what’s the substance behind all of this, and specifically how was it determined that Actemra Tocilizumab could be a drug that helps people struggling with COVID-19? Let’s look at that here. A research study done in the United Kingdom that found this arthritis pain relief drug reduced a patient’s risk of dying from COVID-19, shortened their time to recovery, and reduced the likelihood that the person would need to be put on a ventilator if they experienced severe COVID-19 symptoms and were unable to breathe on their own.
The estimates given for using Tocilizumab Actemra is that 1 in 4 patients at risk of death treated with it would survive, all as a result of using an arthritis pain relief drug to minimize the effects of COVID-19. That’s quite significant, although we need to temper expectations with all of this sort of stuff. It wasn’t that long ago that all the hype regarding Hydroxychloroquine as a means of preventing COVID turned out to be a whole lot of nothing.
Dosing Actemra Tocilizumab WITH Dexamethasone
That’s not to suggest that we shouldn’t be at least a little optimistic about the use of Actemra Tocilizumab for treating COVID. The understanding so far is that it works by making oxygen more naturally available and therefore makes the most of a person’s aerobic capacity when their ability to breathe is very compromised. However, another thing that needs to be mentioned is that the effectiveness of it seems to be dependent on it being used with some type of steroidal medication.
In the study talked about earlier, Actemra from Roche (Actemra is the brand name for Tocilizumab and Roche is the pharmaceutical manufacturer that makes this medication) was used in conjunction with dexamethasone, which is one such steroidal and what it does is counter the inflammation response that constricts the airway – which is part of how the body responds to COVID wreaking havoc on the person’s lungs.
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Kevzara is another very similar rheumatoid arthritis drug to Actemra that may have the same potential as a drug with off-label use for treating COVID-19. There’s a lot more that the medical community will want to know here. However, with news that China added the use of Actemra Tocilizumab to its COVID-19 protocol almost a full year ago (March 19) it creates the question as to why both the US FDA and Health Canada were so slow to look into it the same way.
Let’s hope there is some real promise to this, although like many medications Actemra Tocilizumab isn’t cheap and the possibility of a cheaper generic equivalent of it is still a way away. That’s because a generic medication can’t be manufactured until the patent on it expires.