GMB’s Dr Hilary explains why arthritis drugs could be a breakthrough for Covid patients

Dr Hilary Jones compares coronavirus vaccine to flu vaccine

Two drugs already used to treat arthritis patients – tocilizumab and sarilumab – will be rolled out to substantially cut the Covid death rate. ITV’s Dr Hilary Jones told Good Morning Britain how the two arthritis drugs could help save the lives of seriously ill patients. However, he warned that the drugs were “not treating the virus itself but they are simply keeping people alive”.

Dr Hilary Jones told viewers: “These two medications that are being used already for patients with arthritis, where you have unwanted inflammation, have been shown to be helpful in people seriously ill with Covid.

“These are people in intensive care, who are already on oxygen and steroid therapy.

“In those patients, if you treat 12 of them with these drugs – tocilizumab or sarilumab – you save one life.

“That is a really good rate. Compare that to statins, where you have to treat 100 people to save just two lives, so this is a really good ratio.”

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However, he added a warning note to UK viewers: “It’s worth saying that those people in intensive care, already seriously ill, and would have these medications now offered to them, the death rate is still 28 percent.

“While it is very good news, it has to be tempered with reality, it is still a very serious condition.

“These medications are not treating the virus itself, they are simply keeping people alive, so that means we have more people in hospital.”

Hailing the inclusion of the drugs in the war on Covid, Boris Johnson said yesterday: “These life-saving drugs will be available for the NHS with immediate effect, potentially saving thousands of lives.”

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This comes as the Prime Minister admitted that coronavirus vaccine rollout is a national challenge requiring an unprecedented effort and the armed forces.

He confirmed that almost 1.5 million people in the UK have now received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.

Mr Johnson added that more than 1,000 GP-led sites in England will be able to offer a total of “hundreds of thousands” of jabs each day by next Friday.

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Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson said there would likely be “lumpiness and bumpiness” in the rollout of vaccines.

He said: “Let’s be clear, this is a national challenge on a scale like nothing we’ve seen before and it will require an unprecedented national effort.

“Of course, there will be difficulties, appointments will be changed but the Army is working hand in glove with the NHS and local councils to set up our vaccine network and using battle preparation techniques to help us keep up the pace.”

A further 1,162 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were reported on Thursday, with 52,618 new cases.

Simon Stevens, head of the NHS in England, warned 10,000 patients with Covid had been admitted to hospital since Christmas Day.

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