The effect of tocilizumab on mortality in hospitalized patients with COVID-19: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Eur J Clin Pharmacol. 2021 Feb 2;1-6. doi: 10.1007/s00228-021-03087-z. Online ahead of print.


Objective: We aimed to perform a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to summarize the overall effect of tocilizumab on the risk of mortality among patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Methods: We systematically searched PubMed, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Google Scholar, and medRxiv (preprint repository) databases (up to 7 January 2021). Pooled effect sizes with 95% confidence interval (CI) were generated using random-effects and inverse variance heterogeneity models. The risk of bias of the included RCTs was appraised using version 2 of the Cochrane risk-of-bias tool for randomized trials.

Results: Six RCTs were included: two trials with an overall low risk of bias and four trials had some concerns regarding the overall risk of bias. Our meta-analysis did not find significant mortality benefits with the use of tocilizumab among patients with COVID-19 relative to non-use of tocilizumab (pooled hazard ratio = 0.83; 95% CI 0.66-1.05, n = 2,057). Interestingly, the estimated effect of tocilizumab on the composite endpoint of requirement for mechanical ventilation and/or all-cause mortality indicated clinical benefits, with some evidence against our model hypothesis of no significant effect at the current sample size (pooled hazard ratio = 0.62; 95% CI 0.42-0.91, n = 749).

Conclusion: Despite no clear mortality benefits in hospitalized patients with COVID-19, tocilizumab appears to reduce the likelihood of progression to mechanical ventilation.

Keywords: Bias; COVID-19; Clinical trial; Mortality; Tocilizumab.

Publication types

  • Review