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Talks reportedly under way to use tocilizumab drug in Slovenia

Ljubljana, 17 March - Pharmaceutical company Roche has confirmed that talks are under way in Slovenia on the use of tocilizumab, an immunosuppressive drug used to treat pneumonia in coronavirus patients, the newspaper Delo reported.

Pharmaceutical products.
Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA

"We are in talks with the local regulator, health institutions and doctors about the possibility to secure the tocilizumab drug for Slovenian patients who need it," Delo quoted Roche as saying.

The company stressed that there was currently no solid evidence from clinical trials about the safety and efficacy of the drug in the treatment of covid-19. No medical authority has approved the medicine for this indication yet, Roche added.

The drug is principally used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.

In the first two covid-19 patients treated with tocilizumab, significant improvement was detected within 24 hours.

Rheumatologist and the chair of the rheumatology unit at the UKC Ljubljana hospital, Matija Tomšič, noted that the new coronavirus triggered a cytokine release syndrome, a form of systemic inflammatory response.

Cytokines are small molecules that are produced in communication between cells. Tocilizumab captures these molecules and thus prevents lung inflammation.

According to Delo, the drug is currently being tested on 50 covid-19 patients in Italy, after Chinese doctors reported of its efficacy.

According to some doctors, the advantage of the drug is that it had been used for a while, so it is considered safe to use.

Similarly, remdesivir, a drug used as a treatment for Ebola virus disease, is being used in Italy as an experimental drug therapy for covid-19 based on WHO recommendations.

© STA, 2020