LAHORE: The Punjab government has approved the use of Actemra, a life-saving drug, for treating critically ill Covid-19 patients in the wake of a sudden rise in the death rate reported by state-run hospitals across the province.
The 400mg injectable drug — an interleukin-6 inhibitor which goes by the generic name of tocilizumab — will be prescribed to patients who develop lung complications and an abnormal level of IL-6 in the blood. The IL-6 is an endogenous chemical which causes inflammation.
“The price of each dose of the drug (injection) is Rs60,000 and it will be given twice to patients under treatment at an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a life-threatening condition,” a senior official told Dawn.
He said the decision was taken at a meeting called by Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid on Wednesday.
Actemra priced at Rs60,000 to be given twice to patients under treatment in ICU
The health department has allowed all teaching hospitals in Lahore to purchase 20 doses of the medicine.
Vice chancellors of medical universities, principals of medical colleges, members of the government’s Corona Expert Advisory Group (CEAG), leading pulmonologists and professors of medicine attended the meeting.
Dr Asad Aslam Khan, the chief executive of Lahore’s Mayo Hospital, presented a study regarding the use of the drug on critical patients in ICUs.
He told the meeting that his hospital had reported an 80-90 per cent recovery rate after doctors prescribed this drug to critical patients of Covid-19 brought there with damaged lungs and severe pneumonia.
He said one of the patients was an associate professor of medicine at the Government Shahdara Teaching Hospital, Lahore, and another was personal staff officer to the vice chancellor of King Edward Medical University.
Both were under treatment at the Mayo Hospital and the drug’s performance was promising to the extent that they had not only recovered but also left the ICU.
The heads of other medical institutions endorsed the use of Actemra, saying their hospitals had used it to treat coronavirus patients.
The meeting of health professionals was informed that the number of Covid-19 patients suffering from pneumonia was going up by the day, leading to a rise in the death rate in Punjab.
Another important decision taken at the meeting pertained to expansion of ICU facilities across the province.
The heads of teaching institutions were asked to expand the bed capacity in high dependency units and ICUs to cope with an expected rise in the number of coronavirus patients in Punjab.
The heads were also advised to raise the number of ventilators to 200 by May 31 and to 400 by the end of next month.
Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2020