A drug normally used to treat arthritis can be a life-saver for some patients with Covid.

For every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, along with a cheap steroid already routinely given, an additional life would be saved, the experts say.

Some hospitals are now doing this.

And the drug was mentioned in tonight's coronavirus briefing.

This is what we know about the drug:

Tocilizumab is in a class of drugs called biologics.

It is a treatment for adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis (RA), giant cell arteritis, and polyarticular and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis.

Tocilizumab has been proven to improve survival outcomes for those with Covid when taken on top of a steroid, Chris Whitty said tonight.

As well as improving survival and recovery time, it can avoid patients needing to be moved to intensive care, said the NHS doctors.

Patient testimony from Wendy Coleman, 62, attests to the promise of tocilizumab in treating those severely ill with COVID-19.

Coleman received the treatment last year when she was admitted to Chesterfield Royal Hospital with severe COVID-19, the BBC reported.

"I was struggling to breathe quite badly and on the verge of being placed in an intensive care unit.

"After I was given tocilizumab, my condition stabilised and I didn't get any worse. Up until then, it was quite scary as I didn't know if I was going to make it or not," she said.


Researchers involved in the clinical trial for tocilizumab said around half of people admitted to hospital with Covid could benefit from the treatment.

Their conclusions are based on a clinical trial that involved more than 4,000 volunteers.

Half of the Covid patients were given tocilizumab, via a drip, alongside usual care with a life-saving cheap steroid drug called dexamethasone.

In that group, compared to another group that did not receive the new drug:

It reduced the chance of a patient needing to go on a ventilator or dying from 38 percent to 33 percent).

Combined, tocilizumab and dexamethasone should cut death risk by about a third for patients on oxygen and halve it for those on a ventilator, the researchers said.

Prof Martin Landray, joint chief investigator of the RECOVERY trial and a medical expert at Oxford University, said: "Used in combination, the impact is substantial.

"This is good news for patients and good news for the health services that care for them in the UK and around the world."