The European Medicines Agency (EMA), the drug regulator of the European Union, will evaluate the use of Actemra, a drug developed by Roche to treat arthritis, as a potential treatment for adults hospitalised with severe cases of Covid-19.

The EMA will undertake an accelerated assessment of Tocilizumab, the drug sold by Roche as Actemra and RoActemra, to gauge its potential for Covid-19 treatment. The assessment will take into account results from four large, randomised studies involving patients receiving hospital treatment for severe Covid-19.

The assessment will seek to establish whether to authorise an extension of the drug’s use to treat Covid-19 patients. The EMA said that, barring supplementary information being required, the results of the assessment are expected by around mid-October.

The findings of the assessment and any requirements for further study or monitoring, will then be sent to the European Commission. At this point, the European Commission will issue a decision on the drug, which will be legally binding across EU member states.

Tocilizumab has been mooted as a possible Covid-19 treatment due to its capacity to block interleukin-6, a product of the immune system responding to inflammation which can play a key role in a patient developing severe Covid-19.

A trial in February showed the drug was effective at cutting the risk of death among Covid-19 patients, as well as shortening recovery times and reducing the need for patients to be mechanically ventilated. In June, US regulators approved the emergency use of Tocilizumab for hospital patients requiring oxygen for their Covid-19 treatment.

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