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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Photo: Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images

A drug used to treat arthritis lowers the chances of severely ill patients dying from COVID-19, shortens time in hospital and reduces the need for invasive mechanical ventilation, a U.K. study out Thursday shows.

Why it matters: The data from the trial suggests there are now several effective coronavirus treatment options available to health care providers.

  • When used with the steroid dexamethasone, the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab could reduce mortality by one-third for patients on oxygen and nearly half for those requiring a ventilator.
  • Tocilizumab is administered by intravenous infusion and is normally used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

The big picture: Currently, there are only a few treatment options for those with severe COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has approved Gilead's antiviral drug remdesivir and two monoclonal antibody treatments.

  • In June, the series of studies led by the University of Oxford found that the inexpensive and widely available dexamethasone reduced death for patients with severe COVID-19. It soon became part of standard care around the world.
  • 82% of patients in the study taking tocilizumab were also on the steroid dexamethasone.

By the numbers: 2,022 patients were randomly selected to receive tocilizumab, compared to 2,094 patients randomly selected to receive only standard care.

  • The drug increased the probability of discharge within 28 days from 47% to 54%, according to the researchers.
  • The drug also led to fewer patients being put on a ventilator machine and resulted in patients being discharged from hospital more quickly.

What they're saying: "Previous trials of tocilizumab had shown mixed results, and it was unclear which patients might benefit from the treatment," Peter Horby, professor at the University of Oxford and joint chief investigator for RECOVERY, said in a statement.

  • "We now know that the benefits of tocilizumab extend to all COVID patients with low oxygen levels and significant inflammation. The double impact of dexamethasone plus tocilizumab is impressive and very welcome."

What's next: The results from the Oxford study have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Go deeper

Feb 10, 2021 - Health

CDC asks public to consider wearing 2 masks or adjusting tighter fit

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Wearing two face masks or adjusting a mask to fit more snuggly can better help protect against COVID-19 and its highly transmissible variants, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised in new guidance out Wednesday.

Why it matters: Modeling shows the B.1.1.7 variant from the U.K. could become the dominant strain in the U.S. by the end of March, said Anthony Fauci, President Biden's chief medical adviser, on Wednesday.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Feb 10, 2021 - Health

The pandemic's coming new normal

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Library of Congress/Corbis via Getty Images

As both vaccinations and acquired immunity spread, life will likely settle into a new normal that will resemble pre-COVID-19 days — with some major twists.

The big picture: While hospitalizations and deaths are tamped down, the novel coronavirus should recede as a mortal threat to the world. But a lingering pool of unvaccinated people — and the virus' own ability to mutate — will ensure SARS-CoV-2 keeps circulating at some level, meaning some precautions will be kept in place for years.

Feb 11, 2021 - Health

Fauci: 20,000 pregnant women have had COVID vaccine without complications

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci at the White House in January. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci said during a White House briefing Wednesday that 20,000 pregnant women have been vaccinated against COVID-19 without complications.

Why it matters: The new figure comes weeks after the World Health Organization altered its guidance for pregnant women and inoculation to say those at high risk of exposure to COVID-19, or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated, in line with CDC guidance.

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