Combination therapy of Tocilizumab and steroid for managemen
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Cytokine release syndrome (CRS) or cytokine storm is thought to be the cause of inflammatory lung damage, worsening pneumonia and death in patients with COVID-19. Steroids (Methylprednislone or Dexamethasone) and Tocilizumab (TCZ), an interleukin-6 receptor antagonist, are approved for treatment of CRS in India. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of combination therapy of TCZ and steroid in COVID-19 associated CRS.

This retrospective cohort study was conducted at Noble hospital and Research Centre (NHRC), Pune, India between April 2 and November 2, 2020. All patients administered TCZ and steroids during this period were included. The primary endpoint was incidence of all cause mortality. Secondary outcomes studied were need for mechanical ventilation and incidence of systemic and infectious complications. Baseline and time dependent risk factors significantly associated with death were identified by Relative risk estimation.

Out of 2831 admitted patients, 515 (24.3% females) were administered TCZ and steroids. There were 135 deaths (26.2%), while 380 patients (73.8%) had clinical improvement. Mechanical ventilation was required in 242 (47%) patients. Of these, 44.2% (107/242) recovered and were weaned off the ventilator. Thirty seven percent patients were managed in wards and did not need intensive care unit (ICU) admission.

Infectious complications like hospital acquired pneumonia, blood stream bacterial and fungal infections were observed in 2.13%, 2.13% and 0.06% patients respectively. Age more than 60 years, presence of co-morbidities like hypertension, IL-6 more than 100 pg/ml, D-dimer more than 1000 ng/ml, CT severity index more than 18 and systemic complications like lung fibrosis, cardiac arrhythmia, hypotension and encephalopathy were associated with increased risk of death.

Combination therapy of TCZ and steroids is likely to be safe and effective in management of COVID-19 associated cytokine release syndrome. Efficacy of this anti-inflammatory combination therapy needs to be validated in randomized controlled trials.