J Intern Med. 2021 Jan 29:10.1111/joim.13231. doi: 10.1111/joim.13231. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: Published reports on tocilizumab in COVID-19 pneumonitis show conflicting results due to weak designs or heterogeneity in critical methodological issues.
METHODS: This open-label trial, structured according to Simon's optimal design, aims to identify factors predicting which patients could benefit from anti-IL6 strategies and to enhance the design of unequivocal and reliable future randomized trials. A total of 46 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia needing of oxygen therapy to maintain SO2 > 93% and with recent worsening of lung function received a single infusion of tocilizumab. Clinical and biological markers were measured to test their predictive values. Primary end point was early and sustained clinical response.
RESULTS: Twenty-one patients fulfilled pre-defined response criteria. Lower levels of IL-6 at 24 h after tocilizumab infusion (P = 0.049) and higher baseline values of PaO2/FiO2 (P = 0.008) predicted a favourable response.
CONCLUSIONS: Objective clinical response rate overcame the pre-defined threshold of 30%. Efficacy of tocilizumab to improve respiratory function in patients selected according to our inclusion criteria warrants investigations in randomized trials.