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Subiaco researcher leads global study to improve survival for COVID-19 patients

Professor Steve Webb, Professor of Critical Care Research at Monash University and Director of Clinical Trials at St John of God Subiaco Hospital, has led a trial spanning almost 300 hospitals and 16 countries that demonstrates medication usually used for arthritis increases survival for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

5 Mar 2021

Professor Steve Webb, Professor of Critical Care Research at Monash University and Director of Clinical Trials at St John of God Subiaco Hospital, has led a trial that demonstrates arthritis medication increases survival for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

The REMAP-CAP trial evaluates the effect of treatments on a combination of survival and length of time patients need support in an ICU, with results being published on 25 February 2021 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Professor Webb says findings from the trial in November last year showed the drug tocilizumab was likely to improve outcomes among critically ill COVID-19 patients. 

“At the time, however, we weren’t sure how tocilizumab impacted on patient survival and length of time on organ support in ICU,” Professor Webb says.

“Now that the full results are available, we know that tocilizumab and a second drug called sarilumab – both immunosuppressive drugs used to treat rheumatoid arthritis – reduce mortality by 8.5%.” 

“We also found that patients were able to be discharged from ICU about a week earlier.”

When the full results of the REMAP-CAP trial were released in January this year, approximately 4500 patients across the UK were immediately given this treatment.

“We hope that within six to 12 months, with the global rollout of a vaccine, the number of people with life-threatening COVID-19 drops dramatically.”

“But until that time, for those who are critically ill, this treatment will improve their chances of survival.”

Professor Webb says the research time allocated by St John of God Subiaco Hospital was critical to allow him to lead the trial.

“I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity to lead REMAP-CAP, the results of which can be used in a practical way to improve the chances of recovery from COVID-19 for many people around the world,” Professor Webb says.

“St John of God Subiaco Hospital has been incredible in its support; having the time to devote to this study has been critical to its progress and success.”

About REMAP-CAP

The REMAP-CAP study is a global trial for patients with severe COVID.  The trial is recruiting at 296 hospitals in 16 countries and global coordination and trial management is led from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre at Monash University and supported by Minderoo Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council and St John of God Subiaco Hospital.

The trial has recruited more than 5,500 patients with severe COVID.  The trial uses a unique and innovative design to randomise patients to multiple combinations of treatments, enabling researchers to evaluate different treatments for COVID-19, including antivirals, drugs which modulate the immune response, blood thinners, convalescent plasma, and other therapies that modulate or support other vital aspects of the body's response to the virus. 

Visit https://www.remapcap.org to find out more.

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