By Cassandra Calabrese
The rheumatoid arthritis drug sarilumab is set to enter a clinical trial program for patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 infection, according to a joint statement released by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and Sanofi.
Sarilumab (Kevzara) — jointly developed Regeneron and Sanofi — is a fully human, monoclonal antibody that inhibits the interleukin-6 (IL-6) pathway by binding and blocking the IL-6 receptor. According to the pharmaceutical companies’ joint statement, IL-6 may play a role in driving the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of patients who are severely or critically ill with COVID-19.
In an email, Cassandra Calabrese, DO, of the Cleveland Clinic, and Leonard Calabrese, DO, RJ Fasenmyer chair of clinical immunology at the Cleveland Clinic, and chief medical editor of Healio Rheumatology, wrote there is a growing body of reports showing the benefit of targeting the IL-6 pathway in patients with COVID-19, most notably in recent single-arm study in China.
“It appears that IL-6 may play a key role in driving the inflammatory response that leads to morbidity and mortality and patients with COVID-19 who develop acute respiratory distress syndrome,” they told Healio Rheumatology. “While we await evidence-based data, there have been reports of increasing experience using tocilizumab, another IL-6 inhibitor, to treat these patients with severe COVID-19 infection, including a non-peer-reviewed retrospective Chinese experience describing 21 COVID-19 positive patients with severe illness who received tocilizumab. They observed improvement in oxygenation and other clinical outcomes.”