Off-label tocilizumab and adjuvant iron chelator effectiveness in a group of severe COVID-19 pneumonia patients: A single center experience

Link to article at PubMed

Medicine (Baltimore). 2021 May 7;100(18):e25832. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000025832.


Tocilizumab (TCZ), a monoclonal recombinant antibody against IL-6 receptor, is currently used in managing the cytokine release syndrome (CRS) that occurred in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) selected cases. The primary objective of our study was to establish the effectiveness of TCZ in patients with severe or critical severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) pneumonia.We retrospectively analyzed 25 consecutive patients, admitted in the Academic Emergency Hospital Sibiu, Romania from April 1, 2020 until May 25, 2020, all with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe pneumonia. All patients were treated off-label with TCZ, beside their standard care. Adjuvant iron chelator was associated in 11 patients.Six female and 19 male patients admitted in our hospital all with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe pneumonia as defined by Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were enrolled in this study. Seventeen of the 25 enrolled patients (68%) were seriously ill requiring noninvasive ventilation or oxygen mask, and 8 cases (32%) were critically ill requiring invasive mechanical ventilation. All patients received TCZ, and also received hydroxychloroquine, and lopinavir/ritonavir 200/50 mg for 10 days. Adjuvant iron chelator (deferasirox - marketed as Exjade) was associated in 11 patients who had ferritin serum levels above 1000 ng/mL. No side effects were encountered during infusions or after TCZ. We observed a rapid increase in arterial oxygen saturation for 20 of the 25 cases (80%) with a favorable evolution toward healing. Survivors were younger than 60 years old (80%), had less comorbidities (10% no comorbidities, 70% with 1 or 2 comorbidities), lower serum ferritin levels (30% under 1000 ng/mL), and 50% had no serum glucose elevation. Our patients with CRS had no response to corticosteroid therapy. Five out of the 25 patients had an unfavorable evolution to death. The off-label use of TCZ in patients with severe or critically ill form of SARS-CoV-2 infection had good results in our study.Off-label use of TCZ in severe and critical cases of COVID-19 pneumonia is effective in managing the "cytokine storm." Better outcomes were noted in younger patients. Associated adjuvant iron chelators may contribute to a good outcome and needs to be confirmed in larger studies.

PMID:33950993 | PMC:PMC8104262 | DOI:10.1097/MD.0000000000025832

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