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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 344-355

2020 Updates on tocilizumab indications for clinicians managing patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2

1 Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Rheumatology unit, Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, Umm Al-Qura University, Makkah, Saudi Arabia
3 Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Jeddah, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
4 Department of Clinical Pharmacy, King Saud University Medical City, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
5 Pediatric Rheumatology Unit, Department of Pediatric, King Abdullah Specialized Children Hospital, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
6 Infectious Disease Unit, Department of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Correspondence Address:
Mohammed A Omair
Rheumatology Unit, Department of Medicine, King Saud University, 38, PO Box 2925, Riyadh 11461
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/JNSM.JNSM_85_20

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In March 2020, the World Health Organization declared coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, as a global pandemic. The number of infected individuals has grown exponentially, and no vaccine candidate is currently available. Hence, various drugs are being considered for the treatment of patients with COVID-19. Tocilizumab, a novel humanized monoclonal antibody targeting interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor, has been approved for the treatment of various inflammatory conditions, including moderate-to-severe rheumatoid arthritis, giant cell arteritis, active polyarticular and systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis in patients aged ≥2 years, and Castleman disease. Given that patients with severe COVID-19 show features of an accentuated immune response and increased release of many proinflammatory cytokines, including IL-6, tocilizumab has been repurposed as a possible COVID-19 therapy. This review provides clinicians managing patients with COVID-19 with an overview of the IL-6 pathway, its blockade by tocilizumab, and the effects of this drug in various inflammatory conditions, including current understanding of its effects in patients with COVID-19. Tocilizumab is listed as an option for treating severe or critical cases of COVID-19 with elevated IL-6 in the 7th edition of the National Health Commission of the People's Republic of China COVID-19 Diagnosis and Treatment Guide. A systematic review of six small observational studies and case reports on the supportive use of tocilizumab in patients with COVID-19 suggested some benefits of the treatment but did not allow solid conclusions; further clinical trials are currently evaluating the impact of adding tocilizumab to the treatment regimen for these patients.

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