Around the world there has been a scramble to develop and test a vaccine for the Covid-19 pandemic that originated in China and has since spread around the world.

There are a number of British universities and research organisations that are involved in this search, and now there has been a breakthrough in terms of Covid-19 treatments as well.

Reuters reported that a drug produced by Roche has been found to improve survival rates among patients with Covid-19 who are in hospital.

Actemra is a rheumatoid arthritis medication that is designed to fight inflammation, but the latest research indicates that taking actemra could help those who fall ill with Covid-19. A study earlier this year found that those taking actemra were 44 per cent less likely to need ventilation or to fall ill and die.

The trial found that actemra can “reduce the need for mechanical ventilation in patients with Covid-19 associated pneumonia,” chief medical officer and head of global product development at Roche Levi Garraway commented.

Roche has also made an effort to include people from ethnic minority backgrounds in its trial group for the new drug. The firm pointed out that people from the likes of Hispanic, Black and Native American backgrounds are often underrepresented in pharmaceutical studies.

In this instance, it’s particularly important that they are included in clinical trials given that these groups have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biopharma Dive reported that the announcement about actemra by Roche earlier in the month was a surprise, after an earlier clinical trial of the drug with patients suffering from Covid-19 reported a different outcome.

The news provider noted that Roche isn’t the only pharmaceutical firm to be exploring whether drugs known as IL-6 inhibitors could help treat Covid. However, Sanofi and Regeneron reported negative results from the trials of their IL-6 inhibitor Kevzara.

It also pointed out that, although actemra came up short in its initial clinical trial among 450 Covid patients in July, researchers were able to note “positive trends”, which is why Roche decided to keep the project going.

However, while actemra may help to prevent some patients from needing ventilation, it doesn’t seem to offer a great deal beyond this step.

Roche has only published its summary results so far and its full findings will be submitted to a peer-reviewed medical journal as soon as it’s possible to do so. The company also intends to share its findings and plans with public health authorities if they would like to discuss potential opportunities with the drug maker.

Meanwhile, the BBC recently reported that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently set out rules for testing African herbal remedies that it is alleged could assist with the treatment of Covid-19.

According to the WHO, the new trials are “aimed at helping and empowering scientists in Africa to conduct proper clinical trials”.

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