Swab samples being collected to be tested for COVID-19
Swab samples being collected to be tested for COVID-19

There has been an 89% drop in the demand of the life-saving drug Tocilizumab, which was earlier prescribed to critical COVID-19 patients in the last five months. Till July, the demand of Tocilizumab was around 27,000 doses in the state, which has dropped to around 3,000. At present, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only gets the demand of antivirals like Remdesivir. In fact, the demand for oxygen has also declined by almost 40% since December 2020. Officials and doctors have attributed this drop to the early diagnosis of COVID-19 patients.

“The current scenario has completely changed like it was when the pandemic started. The demands for Tocilizumab had increased by almost 80%, following which all the manufacturers were asked to increase the production. But now, the tables have turned and the demand has fallen,” said a senior FDA official.

However, the city doctors have cited several reasons for the drop in the demand of Tocilizumab injections, as it was given to serious patients who had developed ‘cytokine storm,' which can be fatal for the patients. On the other hand, Remdesivir is provided to mildly and moderately ill patients in the early stage of their treatment. In the last eleven months, due to early diagnosis, the number of severely infected patients has decreased drastically in the state, which has limited the usage of Tocilizumab.

“Nowadays, we are getting patients who are asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, due to which administering these patients with Tocilizumab is of no question. Moreover, the early use of Remdesivir and steroid treatment have made a huge difference. In fact, convalescent plasma therapy is also effective,” said doctor.

Other than this, several medical studies have also ruled out the importance of the repurpose drug Tocilizumab. On October 21, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study on 243 patients that found Tocilizumab did not reduce the risk of intubation or death as of four weeks in moderately ill COVID-19 patients.

“Now that almost one year has passed since the COVID-19 outbreak, several significant researches have been done into it (Tocilizumab). But it has failed to show mortality benefits in patients. The increased risk of superadded bacterial and fungal infections is also one of the major reasons to avoid Tocilizumab,” said Dr Prashant Borade, Head, Critical Care Unit, Global Hospitals, Mumbai.

Meanwhile, the state COVID-19 task force has also removed the usage of Tocilizumab from their treatment protocol.

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