Tocilizumab for the treatment of severe coronavirus disease 2019

J Med Virol. 2020 Oct;92(10):2042-2049. doi: 10.1002/jmv.25964. Epub 2020 May 10.


Tocilizumab, an interleukin-6 inhibitor, may ameliorate the inflammatory manifestations associated with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) and thus improve clinical outcomes. This was a retrospective review of patients with laboratory-confirmed severe COVID-19 who received tocilizumab and completed 14 days of follow up. Twenty-five patients were included, median age was 58 years (interquartile range, 50-63) and the majority were males (92%). Co-morbidities included diabetes mellitus (48%), chronic kidney disease (16%), and cardiovascular disease (12%). Fever (92%), cough (84%), and dyspnea (72%) were the commonest presenting symptoms. All patients received at least two concomitant investigational antiviral agents. Median oral temperature was on day 1, 3, and 7 was 38.0°C, 37.3°C (P = .043), and 37.0°C (P = .064), respectively. Corresponding median C-reactive protein was 193 and 7.9 mg/L (P < .0001) and <6 mg/L (P = .0001). Radiological improvement was noted in 44% of patients by day 7% and 68% by day 14. Nine patients (36%) were discharged alive from intensive care unit and three (12%) died. The proportion of patients on invasive ventilation declined from (84%) at the time of tocilizumab initiation to 60% on day 7 (P = .031) and 28% on day 14 (P = .001). The majority (92%) of patients experienced at least one adverse event. However, it is not possible to ascertain which adverse events were directly related to tocilizumab therapy. In patients with severe COVID-19, tocilizumab was associated with dramatic decline in inflammatory markers, radiological improvement and reduced ventilatory support requirements. Given the study's limitations, the results require assessment in adequately powered randomized controlled trials.

Keywords: COVID-19; IL-6; SARS-CoV-2; coronavirus; tocilizumab.

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized / therapeutic use*
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Qatar
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Antiviral Agents
  • C-Reactive Protein
  • tocilizumab

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 drug treatment