Clinical trials of the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab (Actemra) for COVID-19 have begun in selected public and private hospitals in Punjab.
Tocilizumab is immunosuppressive drug used for rheumatoid arthritis. It works by decreasing the severity of the immune response known as a cytokine storm.
This is what has been responsible for a great number of coronavirus deaths. Clinical trials of tocilizumab are taking place in different countries and have shown some degree of success.
In a government notification, Punjab’s Corona Experts Advisory Group (CEAG) listed the conditions that would apply to the hospitals taking part in the tocilizumab trials.
Only designated public sector hospitals are allowed to procure the Actemra injection, which will exclusively be used for the patients registered for the study.
The drug would only be given to severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted in the ICUs of these hospitals. These patients will be monitored separately from other admitted patients. Around 115 patients are enrolled in the trial.
M/S Roche and all designated hospitals are directed to ensure 24 hours service to supply injections. Roche will provide the medicine to private hospitals.
Meanwhile, the sale of injection in the market, including at medical stores and hospital pharmacies, is completely banned, according to the Punjab Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department.
There have been reports of shortage of the medicine in markets. While it has a market price of around Rs12,000, Actemra is also being sold in black for as much as Rs100,000-200,000, according to reports on the social media.
In public hospitals a provincial committee will monitor the study on the use of tocilizumab. It will be comprising the following:
The Punjab Healthcare Commission will be responsible for private hospitals.
In both sectors, doctors treating the patients will have to record themselves using video camera while opening the injection pack and administering the drug.
This video along with clinical records of the patients will be given to the respective committees.