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Biologics and steroids to treat coronavirus

(14 Posts)
Hejira Thu 07-Jan-21 18:24:56

I'm reading in today's news that biologics such as tocilizumab and sarilumab could save lives. I believe the steroid dexamethosone is used in a a lot of cases.

At the start of the the pandemic, I was taking both the steroid prednisolone and the biologic adalimumab to treat an inflammatory auto immune condition. As these suppress the immune system, I was told these would make me very vulnerable to complications were I to catch the virus.

Can anyone explain how drugs that make one vulnerable to Covid complications can also be an effective treatment against Covid? I can only think that, in some patients, Covid causes an excessive immune response that has to be controlled.

Marydoll Thu 07-Jan-21 18:44:19

I inject myself weekly with Tocilizumab weekly to help manage my RA. At over £200 per injection it is not cheap.
Apparently research has shown that Tocilizumab is an effective treatment in severe patients of COVID-19 to calm the inflammatory storm and reduce mortality.

Urmstongran Thu 07-Jan-21 18:50:39

No wonder Boris stumbled over the pronunciation of the two drugs. They aren’t easy to say are they?

MissAdventure Thu 07-Jan-21 18:56:00

My daughter had those drugs. (Not for covid) just to help keep her as well as possible.

Hejira Thu 07-Jan-21 19:07:06

That's what I was thinking, Marydoll. In the early days of the pandemic we were heaing a lot about Covid-triggered cytokine storms where the body starts to attack its own cells and tissues rather than just fighting off the virus. Maybe that is why these drugs are considered effective.

Yes I remember the consultant having to obtain permission to let me have Adalimumab (Humira) as it's so expensive. Before the exclusive patent for Humira expired it was, according to NHS England, the single medicine on which hospitals spent the most, at a cost of more than £400 million a year. I was first prescribed one of the less expensive biosimilars, Imraldi, but did not respond at all well to that and no longer take Adalimumab either.

Marydoll Thu 07-Jan-21 19:17:07

I had to try every other drug available for RA, apart from those which were not suitable for me, including one which caused a minor heart attack, before I could be considered for biologics. You have to fulfil certain criteria.
They don't call it the brutal drug for nothing! It has taken me six months to tolerate it, but definitely worth the pain!.
Away back in June, my consultant told me that there has already been some success using biologics to fight severe Covid pneumonia

EllanVannin Thu 07-Jan-21 19:42:05

The dexamethosone ( anti-inflammatory ) drug is being used in drips to the very sick Covid patients. It has been proved to save a number of lives.

Hejira Thu 07-Jan-21 20:06:17

Yes, Marydoll. Similar for me (for a different condition), a ladder of escalating drug therapies all complete with their own set of horrid side effects. Azathioprine was the worst.

As drugs to fight Covid, it must be their ability to stop the immune system going into overdrive. I just find it ironic that drugs which can make you vulnerable to Covid complications can also be used to save your life ... if you get Covid complications. I need those nice Van Tulleken brothers to come and explain it to me. smile

FannyCornforth Thu 07-Jan-21 20:13:18

My DH was hospitalised with Covid and pneumonia.
Prior to that he was on biologics (etanercept - like Mary's, £200 a pop and worth every penny) and methotrexate for RA.
He's been taken off both of them for a few months, and it's going to be reviewed soon.
Unfortunately he's now suffering from long covid and the after affects of pneumonia, plus an RA flare up. sad
There is so much going on that I don't know what it good or bad for what confused

FannyCornforth Thu 07-Jan-21 20:15:17

Hejira I don't know why you are asking for help to understand it all, you seem well on top of it all!

EllanVannin Thu 07-Jan-21 20:20:48

Australia were trying an antiparasytic medication which is used to treat head lice. They'll try anything grin Then again, you would wouldn't you as long as it contained the properties to see the virus off ?

Callistemon Thu 07-Jan-21 21:06:14

Are they protein inhibitors?
If so, they will bind to viral proteins and stop them replicating.

EllanVannin Thu 07-Jan-21 21:23:10

Swine 'flu infected 1.4billion globally, in 2009.
The AIDS epidemic/ pandemic in 1981 has claimed 35 million lives to date.
The Zika virus is ongoing and its impact won't be known for several years

Marydoll Thu 07-Jan-21 21:43:12

In RA, Tocilizumab works by blocking the effects of IL-6 protein.