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Researchers at UC San Diego Health have launched a clinical trial to study tocilizumab, a drug for inflammatory disorders. This trial is part of a global effort to determine if the medication can be used to help COVID-19 patients with lung damage.

Tocilizumab is commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and is marketed as Actemra. It works by blocking cellular receptors for interleukin-6 (IL-6), a small protein that can trigger inflammation in the body. When this receptor is blocked, the body's inflammatory immune response is dampened.

Some patients with COVID-19 overexpress IL-6, which can cause the "cytokine storm" found in some cases of COVID-19. This can lead to life-threatening inflammation and damage to the lungs and other organs. For this reason, tocilizumab may help these patients.

Chinese researchers in Wuhan, China, initially began treating a small number of COVID-19 patients with tocilizumab in the early days of the virus. This intervention showed promising results, and the Chinese National Health commission now includes it in its treatment guidelines for COVID-19-related pneumonia and lung conditions.

The trial will enroll 330 participate at around 70 sites around the world. UC San Diego Health will recruit up to 20 participants for its part of the study. In the study, participants diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia or poor lung gas exchange will receive intravenous infusion of either tocilizumab or placebo.

Atul Malhotra, M.D. chief of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at UC San Diego Health, said in a press release that his team is looking into three primary questions:

"Does tocilizumab improve the health and clinical status of treated COVID-19 patients? Does it reduce the mortality rate due to COVID-19 pneumonia? Does it reduce the need for mechanical ventilation or need for patients to go into intensive care units?"

The results of the study will help determine tocilizumab's potential role in COVID-positive patients with lung damage. According to Genentech and Roche, the trial is expected to be completed by early summer.

Read more from UC San Diego Health.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now to hear about the state of mental health and why many people fear returning to their social and work lives.

HealthDay's Mabel Jong spoke to Dr. Vivian Pender, president of the American Psychiatric Association, and Sherry Amatenstein, a social worker and therapist who has been dealing with these anxieties herself.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

HD Live! Videos

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we dive into the latest details on multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C).

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Mary Beth Son, Program Director of Boston Children's Hospital's Rheumatology Program, and Brian Padla, father of James Padla, who has MIS-C.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.


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Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and one of the physicians on the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee, and Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, Vice Chair of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HealthDay Nows and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HealthDay Now as we take a look at how living through the COVID-19 pandemic impacts children socially, mentally and emotionally.

One year in, this is their "new normal," but what does that mean for them? From social isolation to remote learning to a loss of structure and normalcy, we discuss how living during the pandemic has both short- and long-term effects on children.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with:

  • Dr. Mark Reinecke, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University
  • Tracy Compton, a parent
  • Stephen Guerriero, a teacher
  • Jake Anderson, a student

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at the COVID-19 pandemic and the vaccination rollout and how they've impacted people of color.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with:

  • Tasha Clark-Amar, CEO, East Baton Rouge Council on Aging
  • Jill Ramirez, Executive Director, Latino HealthCare Forum (Austin)
  • Vickie Mays, PhD, Professor, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at the global COVID-19 vaccination rollout and how the United States rollout compares.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Ran Balicer of Clalit Health Services and Dr. Arnold Monto of University of Michigan School of Public Health.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

UPDATE 1/26/21: Since our HD Live! interview with CEO Andrei Doroshin, the Philadelphia Health Department has severed its ties with the organization. The nonprofit has changed its status to a for-profit entity.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a look at Philly Fighting Covid, a nonprofit organization run by graduate students from Drexel University that aims to help with mass COVID-19 vaccination in Philadelphia.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Andrei Doroshin, founder of Philly Fighting Covid.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a deep dive into the vaccine rollout across the country.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a member of the Biden COVID-19 Advisory Board.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.

Watch our latest HD Live! as we take a deep dive into the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccines, including the rollout process, potential side effects, supply and distribution.

Mabel Jong from our liveblog team speaks with Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center and an attending physician in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and one of the physicians on the FDA Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee.

Watch the in-depth discussion above, and see our past HD Lives and other videos on our YouTube channel.