IL-6 inhibition in the treatment of COVID-19: a meta-analysis and meta-regression

J Infect. 2021 Mar 18:S0163-4453(21)00125-0. doi: 10.1016/j.jinf.2021.03.008. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVES: Multiple RCTs of interkeukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors in COVID-19 have been published, with conflicting conclusions. We performed a meta-analysis to assess the impact of IL-6 inhibition on mortality from COVID-19, utilising meta-regression to explore differences in study results.

METHODS: Systematic database searches were performed to identify RCTs comparing IL-6 inhibitors (tocilizumab and sarilumab) to placebo or standard of care in adults with COVID-19. Meta-analysis was used to estimate the relative risk of mortality at 28 days between arms, expressed as a risk ratio. Within-study mortality rates were compared, and meta-regression was used to investigate treatment effect modification.

RESULTS: Data from nine RCTs were included. The combined mortality rate across studies was 19% (95% CI: 18, 20%), ranging from 2% to 31%. The overall risk ratio for 28-day mortality was 0.90 (95% CI: 0.81, 0.99), in favour of benefit for IL-6 inhibition over placebo or standard of care, with low treatment effect heterogeneity: I2 0% (95% CI: 0, 53%). Meta-regression showed no evidence of treatment effect modification by patient characteristics. Trial-specific mortality rates were explained by known patient-level predictors of COVID-19 outcome (male sex, CRP, hypertension), and country-level COVID-19 incidence.

CONCLUSIONS: IL-6 inhibition is associated with clinically meaningful improvements in outcomes for patients admitted with COVID-19. Long-term benefits of IL-6 inhibition, its effectiveness across healthcare systems, and implications for differing standards of care are currently unknown.

PMID:33745918 | PMC:PMC7970418 | DOI:10.1016/j.jinf.2021.03.008