Covid-19 ‘wonder drug’ now available for free

Tocilizumab, covid drug, coronavirus treatment

Tocilizumab is a previously unaffordable and inaccessible drug.

Photo credit: SHUTTERSTOCK

What you need to know:

  • Tocilizumab received emergency use authorisation in June last year  for the treatment of severe and critical coronavirus cases in hospitalised adults as well as paediatric patients older than two years.
  • Experts highlight that it has been seen to reduce patients’ need for mechanical ventilation and improve their chances of survival.

 Covid-19 patients in the country can now breathe a sigh of relief after Tocilizumab, a previously unaffordable and inaccessible drug meant for treating severe and critical coronavirus cases, was made available free of charge.

Prices have in the past been ranging from Sh250,000 to Sh350,000 per dose , with some patients requiring two doses.  

The drug, which is also used for treatment of other diseases such as cancer, will now be distributed based on caseloads throughout the country, according to the Director General of Health Patrick Amoth; thanks to an initiative by the Ministry of Health and the Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF).


The initiative is aimed at supporting the management of severe Covid-19 cases.  

“Reference is made to your letter dated  June 14,  2022 informing the ministry that the project has received 1,470 vials of Tocilizumab 400mg (Actrema) to support management of Covid-19 patients and seeking linkage with hospitals that will need to utilise this drug to enable you distribute the drug.

“The ministry has considered the caseload in various government and private hospitals, availability of intensive care capacity and requisite specialist physicians to monitor effects of the drug and has drawn a proposed distributions list,” Dr Amoth said in an official letter approving the distribution as seen by Healthy Nation.

Tocilizumab received emergency use authorisation in June last year  for the treatment of severe and critical coronavirus cases in hospitalised adults as well as paediatric patients older than two years.

Experts highlight that it has been seen to reduce patients’ need for mechanical ventilation and improve their chances of survival.

“The drug will be distributed to 28 hospitals with critical care services, both private and public, to ensure all patients presenting with severe to critical Covid-19 have access to the drug in time and free of charge. Treatment is an essential part of combating the pandemic and we hope this will reduce and prevent further needless loss of lives to Covid-19,”  said Dr Eliud Mwangi, the county director for EGPAF in Kenya.

A  beneficiary of the drug who sought anonymity told Healthy Nation that the drug saved his father’s life. 

“The intervention with the drug was very timely, it saved our father’s life. Aged 75 , he had been hesitant to go for vaccination. When he got the virus, it was severe and he was put on oxygen.” 

“ I was linked to EGPAF by Nyeri’s Mt Kenya Sub-County Hospital and they made the drug available immediately free of charge. When my father took the drug, he was out of oxygen shortly and he  started recuperating.”   

According to Dr Wambui Gitau,  a tropical and infectious disease expert, most Covid-19 patients experience mild to moderate symptoms then recover without special treatment. 

“Tocilizumab is considered an important drug in the management of severe to critical coronavirus cases. 

“It can also reduce coronavirus patients’ need for mechanical ventilation and improve their chances of survival,” she said, adding that the drug can reduce the length of hospital admission. 

As per the Health ministry data, since the first case was reported in the country,  there have been over 335,000 cases recorded and over 5,600 deaths; with most  Covid-19 patients  experiencing  mild to moderate symptoms and recovering  without special treatment.

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