Two breakthrough Covid drugs which left Boris Johnson tongue-tied can cut the risk of death from Covid by nearly a quarter, breakthrough trials have revealed.
Critically ill Covid-19 patients fighting for their lives in ICU will be given new drugs that can “significantly” reduce the risk of death from the virus and cut time spent in hospital by up to 10 days.
⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates
Boris Johnson was left tongue-tied after attempting to announce the breakthrough medicinesCredit: No 10 Downing Street / BEEM
The new drugs can “significantly” reduce the risk of death from CovidCredit: Alamy
Boris Johnson hailed the “life-saving” drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab – usually used for arthritis – in yesterday’s press conference but found himself tripping over the tricky syllables as he delivered his speech on live TV.
The PM made a number of attempts at pronouncing the lengthy drug names, but nevertheless seemed delighted at the scientific breakthrough.
Speaking to the nation, Boris Johnson said: “I am pleased to tell you today, British scientific research has now contributed to the creation of more new life-saving treatments that have just passed rigorous clinical trials.”
Emphasising each syllable, he added: “In particular toci-lizu-mub.
“Sorry, I will say that again, tocilizumab, and sarilumab – they will shortly be on everybody’s lips – which have been found to reduce the risk of death for critically ill patients by almost a quarter.
“They cut time spent in intensive care by as much as 10 days.
“These lifesaving drugs will be available through the NHS with immediate effect, potentially saving thousands of lives.”
Guidance will be updated today to allow Brits in need to receive the game-changing medicines.
The tongue-twister Tocilizumab cuts the risk of death from Covid by almost 25 per centCredit: Alamy
The new drug could help NHS workers save Covid patients in ICUCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Sarilumab is also marketed under the brand name KevzaraCredit: Sarilumab
Professor Anthony Gordon, chair in anaesthesia and critical care at Imperial College London said: “This is a significant finding which could have immediate implications for the sickest patients with Covid-19.
“We found that among critically ill adult patients – those receiving breathing support in intensive care – treatment with these drugs can improve their chances of survival and recovery.
“At a time when hospitalisations and deaths from Covid-19 are soaring in the UK, it’s crucial we continue to identify effective treatments which can help to turn the tide against this disease.”
The uplifting results come from the REMAP-CAP trial which involved 3,900 people with severe Covid in 15 countries.
The trial’s findings are based on an analysis of 803 patients from six countries, 353 of whom had been assigned to tocilizumab and 48 to sarilumab.
Hospital mortality was 27.3% among patients receiving tocilizumab or sarilumab, compared with 35.8% of patients in the control group who did not receive the drugs, the researchers said.
The drop means around 24 per cent of people who would otherwise die of Covid will be saved by the new treatment.
The drugs – marketed as Actemra and Kevzara – are administered via an intravenous drip for an hour with treatment costing between £750 and £1000.
Professor Gordon added: “For every 12 patients in intensive care you treat with these drugs, based on the evidence we saw, you would expect to save one life.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock welcomed the discovery, saying: “The UK has proven time and time again it is at the very forefront of identifying and providing the most promising, innovative treatments for its patients.
“Today’s results are yet another landmark development in finding a way out of this pandemic and, when added to the armoury of vaccines and treatments already being rolled out, will play a significant role in defeating this virus.
“We have worked quickly to ensure this treatment is available to NHS patients without delay, meaning hundreds of lives will be saved.”
The Department of Health says it is working closely with pharmaceutical giant Roche, which manufactures tocilizumab, to ensure adequate demand.
Sarilumab is manufactured by Sanofi and Regeneron.