A clinical trial including patients from Cornwall's hospitals says it has found evidence that an anti-inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis treatment reduces the risk of death for hospitalised patients with severe Covid-19.

Researchers with the RECOVERY trial say that tocilizumab also reduces the length of hospital admission, and the risk of patients requiring mechanical ventilation.

The RECOVERY trial was the world’s first study to show that dexamethasone – a cheap and available steroid that lowers inflammation in the body – reduces the risk of dying from Covid-19.

Now it has gone a step further and found that combining this with with tocilizumab in Covid-19 patients who have significant inflammation reduces mortality by about one third for patients requiring simple oxygen, and nearly one half for those requiring invasive mechanical ventilation.

This time not every site involved in the RECOVERY study was asked to deliver the tocilizumab research.

In the south west it was carried out by Torbay and South Devon NHS Trust, Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust.

However, the overall trial, which has a number of different arms of research, is being carried out at all acute hospitals across the South West Peninsula, including the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust.

Professor Michael Gibbons, clinical director for the Clinical Research Network South West Peninsula, said: “The recent results from the RECOVERY trial add significant and important information to our knowledge on how best to treat Covid-19. Every single acute hospital in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset is running this study, supported through the Clinical Research Network.

"The data has now demonstrated the benefit of tocilizumab in improving survival and reducing length of stay for patents with Covid-19 pneumonia and significant inflammation.

"This is yet another milestone in the ongoing treatment of Covid-19 and our patients have benefitted hugely from these research opportunities. I want to thank all the organisations and staff who worked tirelessly to support the trial and all the patients who participated.”

RECOVERY is now the second study to demonstrate the effectiveness of tocilizumab as a treatment for Covid-19 patients, after results from another study also being delivered locally showed last month that tocilizumab and a second similar drug, called sarilumab, have a significant impact on survival and can reduce the relative risk of death for critically ill patients in intensive care.

The latest results from RECOVERY show that a much wider cohort of Covid-19 patients can potentially benefit from tocilizumab, beyond those critically ill on mechanical ventilation.

As part of the trial, 2,022 patients nationally were randomly allocated to receive tocilizumab by intravenous injection. Results were compared with 2,094 patients randomly allocated to usual care alone. Of these, 82 per cent of randomised patients were also taking a systemic steroid such as dexamethasone.

The study showed that for every 25 patients treated with tocilizumab, one additional life would be saved. Benefits were seen in all subgroups, including patients requiring oxygen via a simple face mask, in addition to patients in intensive care requiring mechanical ventilators.

For patients who were not on invasive mechanical ventilation when entered into the trial, tocilizumab also significantly reduced the chance of progressing to invasive mechanical ventilation or death from 38 per cent to 33 per cent.