Roche, an international pharmaceutical company based in Switzerland, has announced that it is ready to “provide tocilizumab RoActemra free of charge for the period of the emergency to all Regions that request it in Italy”.
RoActemra is the drug, with tocilizumab as the active ingredient, which is usually used as a drug for rheumatoid arthritis. It has been tested in China and Naples on Covid-19 patients and has given very encouraging results. Hence the company’s decision to donate the drug to all Italian hospitals, “subject to the necessary stocks to allow therapeutic continuity to patients suffering from diseases for which the product is authorized”.
Actemra doesn’t directly kill the novel coronavirus, now dubbed SARS-CoV-2. It’s known as an inhibitor of the receptor of interleukin 6 (IL-6), a proinflammatory cytokine. In the disease COVID-19, the body may respond to the pathogen by overproducing immune cells and their signaling molecules in a dangerous phenomenon called cytokine storm. Similar lung inflammation happened in SARS patients during the 2003 outbreak, mainly in China.
Roche has also decided to donate €1 million “in protective equipment for general practitioners and intensive care equipment”, has launched a “competence volunteering” operation and has launched the “Stay at home, read a book” campaign aimed at young people under 25 in Milan and Monza.”
Roche is working with health authorities and the governments in affected countries to ensure people can get access to screening and healthcare. Roche advocates that people follow the steps outlined by the WHO and the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) to protect themselves and others from the virus.