The two drugs, called tocilizumab and sarilumab, are used to reduce inflammation in patients with arthritis. Hyper-inflammation, whereby the immune system goes into overdrive and destroys the organs, is how covid-19 tends to kill.

The search for suitable anti-inflammatory drugs for covid-19 has already turned up one, dexamethasone. It is a cheap steroid that dampens the immune system across the board.

In contrast, tocilizumab and sarilumab are more targeted. They are both made of antibodies that block the effect of interleukin-6, a protein that stokes the immune response and has been prominent in patients with covid-19.

Nearly 36% of patients in the standard-treatment group died, compared with 27% of patients in the group that also received tocilizumab or sarilumab. In other words, it cut the death rate by about a quarter.

Moreover, the patients treated with these drugs recovered faster and were discharged from hospital 7-10 days earlier.

source: The Economist  Jan 7 2021