Tocilizumab for treating COVID-19: a systemic review and meta-analysis of retrospective studies

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2020 Oct 13;1-9. doi: 10.1007/s00228-020-03017-5. Online ahead of print.


Objectives: COVID-19 has become a global epidemic, and effective therapies have not been discovered up to now. We conducted this study to explore the effectiveness and safety of tocilizumab recently used for treating COVID-19.

Method: A comprehensive search was conducted (up to September 27, 2020), and 19 eligible records were identified according to the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The data of the studies were extracted by 2 independent reviewers and were analyzed to evaluate the safety and availability of tocilizumab for treating COVID-19.

Results: Thirteen retrospective case-control studies (n = 2285 patients) and 6 retrospective single-armed studies (n = 208) were retrieved in this study. In the comparison of tocilizumab treatment group (TCZ) and standard treatment group (ST), significant associations with a lower risk of admission to ICU, use of ventilation, and mortality (OR, 95% CI: 0.53, 0.26~1.09; 0.66, 0.46~0.94; 0.44, 0.36~0.55) were found in the tocilizumab treatment group. What is more, patients treated with tocilizumab had better clinical improvement compared with the patients treated with ST (OR, 1.24; 95% CI, 0.96~1.62). After taking tocilizumab, the patients had lower C-reactive protein (CRP), white blood cell count (WBC), aspartate aminotransferase (AST) (WMD, 95% CI: - 99.66, - 156.24~- 43.09; - 0.95, - 1.8~- 0.11; - 12.58, - 18.88~-6.29) but higher troponin (WMD, 7.61; 95% CI, 3.06~12.15) than before. In addition, tocilizumab did not have significant influence on patients' neutrophil count (Neut), lymphocyte count (Lymp), platelet count (Plt), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and creatine (WMD, 95% CI: - 0.29, - 2.91~2.33; 0.42, - 0.23~1.07; 5.2, - 2.85~13.25; 22.49, - 2.73~47.7; - 44.78, - 93.37~3.81).

Conclusion: Tocilizumab may have potential effectiveness to treat COVID-19 according to the results of this study. However, more large-scale studies are needed for more accurate conclusions.

Keywords: COVID-19; IL-6 blockade; Meta-analysis; Tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Review