FORTH Valley patients have played a vital role in learning more about the fight against Covid-19.

Research shows that a drug normally used to treat arthritis, combined with a steroid, could be a life-saver for some of the sickest people with Covid-19.

Doctors visiting wards in Forth Valley Royal Hospital discussed the Recovery Trial with their patients and recruited 77 people to take part.

Dr Mark Spears, NHS Forth Valley consultant in respiratory medicine, said: “This is an excellent result for those looking for additional treatments for Covid-19.

“Tocilizumab, in addition to dexamethasone, will now be provided early to suitable patients on presentation to hospital, reducing their need for intensive care, improving their chances of survival and reducing time to discharge.

“I would like to thank all those involved in the trial to date, including the trials pharmacy team, the research nurses, clinicians looking after patients with Covid-19 and most importantly the patients themselves.

“Without their courage and willingness to take part in clinical trials, even when seriously unwell, we would be unable to find new effective treatments for this horrible disease.”

The Recovery trial has been testing a range of potential treatments for Covid-19 since March 2020.

Tocilizumab, an intravenous drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, was added to the trial in April last year for patients with COVID-19 who required oxygen and had evidence of inflammation.

Recruitment was continued until last month when the committee decided sufficient patients had been enrolled to establish whether or not the drug had a meaningful benefit.

Results show that Tocilizumab reduces mortality by about one third for patients requiring simple oxygen and nearly one half for those requiring invasive mechanical ventilation.

It also shortens the length of time patients stay in hospital until they are able to be discharged.