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China turns Roche arthritis drug Actemra against COVID-19 in new treatment guidelines

March 04, 2020 / Angus Liu

Some patients infected with the novel coronavirus can develop uncontrolled immune response, leading to potentially life-threatening damage to lung tissue. After seeing promising results in clinical practice, Chinese authorities now recommend a Roche arthritis drug to tackle that rampage. Roche’s blockbuster Actemra, first approved by the U.S. FDA in 2010 for rheumatoid arthritis, can now be used to treat serious coronavirus patients with lung damage, China’s National Health Commission said in its updated treatment guidelines (Chinese) for COVID-19 released Wednesday. The Swiss drugmaker has donated CNY 14 million ($2 million) worth of Actemra to China, its local operations said in a blog post (Chinese) Monday, as the country continues to seek out older drugs that may help battle the disease at its epicenter.