Study Finds First COVID-19 Treatment That Significantly Improves Survival


A study released today demonstrated that tocilizumab has been shown to significantly improve survival outcomes for patients with COVID-19.

A study released today by Hackensack Meridian Health, a comprehensive health network in New Jersey, demonstrates that hydroxychloroquine does not improve survival for hospitalized patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). However, another drug, tocilizumab, has been shown to significantly improve outcomes for patients with COVID-19. Once confirmed, tocilizumab would be the first approved medication that improves survival for patients with COVID-19, according to the study.

Using Hackensack Meridian Health’s observational database Epic, the company created a new data analysis platform for COVID-19 called RECOVERY, which compiled outcomes from more than 3000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients from 13 Hackensack Meridian Health hospitals throughout New Jersey.

RECOVERY was created by the outcomes division of the John Theurer Cancer Center (JTCC) at Hackensack University Medical Center to guide the analysis of data obtained from COVID-19 patients at their facilities.

"As our country and the world struggles with the adverse health effects and economic consequences of COVID-19, Hackensack Meridian Health realizes it is vital to rapidly learn all we can from the experiences of the patients in our care," said Stuart Goldberg, MD, a hematologist/oncologist and chief of the Division of Outcomes and Value Research at the JTCC at Hackensack University Medical Center, in a press release.

The data gathered using RECOVERY revealed that among 2512 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, 76% received at least 1 dose of hydroxychloroquine, while 59% received both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin. The data demonstrated that there were no significant differences in mortality for patients receiving hydroxychloroquine while staying at the hospital, after adjusting for imbalances via propensity modeling, according to the study.

However, among 547 patients admitted to the ICU, 134 received tocilizumab. An analysis of the trend for these patients demonstrated an improved survival rate among those who received this drug: 56% who received tocilizumab survived, compared with 46% who did not receive the therapy, with a propensity adjusted hazard ratio of 0.76.

Yet, these findings are from an observational study, so ultimately randomized clinical trials will be needed to determine the efficacy of these treatments. Hackensack Meridian Health has been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis in New Jersey, which gives it a unique opportunity to provide real-world observational data that offers insight into effective treatment strategies.

"We are in the midst of a global pandemic, and it is critical that we have the necessary data available for our medical professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis," said Ihor Sawczuk, MD, FACS, Hackensack Meridian Health regional president, Northern Market and chief research officer, in a press release. "In the absence of randomized clinical trials, we must learn as much as we can in real-time as we battle this deadly virus. The finding that tocilizumab may be a life-saving therapy in this observational study is an important application of real-world studies.”


Hackensack Meridian Health Observational Study Demonstrates Lack of Efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine Among Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients But Finds First Treatment (tocilizumab) to Improve Survival [news release]. Edison, NJ: Hackensack Meridian Health; May 27, 2020. Accessed May 27, 2020.

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