An international team of researchers has confirmed that two immunosuppressant drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab –normally used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, significantly reduce the time spent by COVID-19 patients in intensive care and reduce the risk of death by almost a quarter. These findings are the result of innovative trial designs set up with support from the EU and other research funders.
Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth said:
"These important new findings mean fewer deaths and shorter stays in intensive care, preserving hospital capacity to deal with the pandemic and save lives. We would not have found these treatments so quickly without the EU driving this truly international effort."
The international team of researchers discovered the new treatments through the adaptive platform trial REMAP-CAP. Adaptive platform trials (APTs) have an innovative trial design, which enables various therapies for a disease to be studied simultaneously and be quickly added or removed from the trial platform after assessing their safety and efficacy in a continuous manner.
REMAP-CAP was established to investigate treatments for pneumonia, mainly with support from the EU joined by other research funders. With the onset of the pandemic it redirected resources towards finding a treatment for COVID-19.
The EU is supporting REMAP-CAP since 2014 through the Platform for European Preparedness Against (Re-)emerging Epidemics (PREPARE) project, which was awarded €24m until 2021. Additional support comes from the related Rapid European SARS-CoV-2 Emergency Research response (RECOVER) project, which addresses the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak focusing on the most urgent questions for patient and public health level interventions. The project was awarded €5 million in March 2020 as a result of the 1st emergency call of Horizon 2020, the EU’s research and innovation programme for 2014 to 2020. Finally, a further €14.9 million was awarded in November 2020 for the REMAP-CAP trial via the RECOVER project.
The REMAP-CAP team in Europe is led by Dr Lennie Derde from University Medical Center Utrecht.