Government looks to review Tocilizumab inclusion for treatment, again

​​Tocilizumab,a rheumatoid arthritis drug, is part of the health ministry’s clinical management protocol for Covid-19 under investigational therapies for patients with moderate symptoms of the illness.

New Delhi: The government may review inclusion of tocilizumab in its treatment protocol for Covid-19 once again due to difference of opinion within the Indian Council of Medical Research’s national task force on the pandemic, two task force members told ET.

Tocilizumab – a rheumatoid arthritis drug manufactured by Swiss drug maker Roche under the brand name Actemra – is part of the health ministry’s clinical management protocol for Covid-19 under investigational therapies for patients with moderate symptoms of the illness.

However, a majority of ICMR’s task force members want it to be removed from the protocol after Roche in July said phase III trials did not meet its primary endpoint of improved clinical status in hospitalised adult patients with severe Covid-19 associated pneumonia, one of the task force members said.


“The matter was taken up earlier in a meeting,” the person said. “However, the discussion had not concluded last time. We are expected to take a call on it soon.”

There are some members in the task force who do not believe that it should be dropped and the decision should not be taken in a “haste”.

According to them the existing protocol is “balanced” as it clearly outlines the “off label” nature and special consideration for using it, the person said.
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Investigational therapies are those with limited available evidence for “off-label” use and included in the standard protocol after an expert committee approves it.

Another member said the defenders of tocilizumab also argued that “we should not deprive certain patients of the possible benefits”. “The literature is mixed with some published studies showing benefit from the therapy,” the person said. “The drug has the potential to benefit certain subgroups of Covid-19 patients, if given at the right time.”
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