tocilizumab   Click here for help

GtoPdb Ligand ID: 6881

Synonyms: Actemra® | R-1569 | RG-1569 | RHPM-1 | RoActemra®
Approved drug Immunopharmacology Ligand
tocilizumab is an approved drug (Japan (2005), EMA (2009), FDA (2010))
Compound class: Antibody
Comment: Tocilizumab is an anti-IL-6 receptor mAb, with immunosuppressive action [12] that is approved for chronic autoimmune indications.
Annotated peptide sequences for this antibody are available from its IMGT/mAb-DB record.

SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: In early March 2020, China's National Health Commission issued guidance to allow use of tocilizumab to treat patients with serious COVID-19-induced lung damage. Tocilizumab was predicted to mitigate against the uncontrolled immune response that is triggered by SARS-CoV-2 infection [4,17] in some patients and which leads to potentially life-threatening damage to the lungs and other organs. Clinical trials began to reveal outcomes by later in 2020, but the level of benefit remained unclear [5-6,14-15] and required further investigations. Differences between the studies (timing of treatment, severity of disease at initiation of treatment etc.) made it difficult to compare results and form a solid conclusion. In early January 2021, data was reported from a small cohort of severely ill, mechanically ventilated COVID-19 patients in the REMAP-CAP trial (NCT02735707) who received tocilizumab. The study results were published [13] in April 2021, and showed that tocilizumab (compared to standard care) significantly improved outcomes, including survival. This effect appears to be in addition to the clinical benefit conferred by dexamathasone. As a result of this report of efficacy the UK Department of Health and Social Care issued updated guidance on the use of tocilizumab (on 8th Jan; link to press release) to NHS trusts across the UK.

Long COVID: A UK clinical study (PHOSP-I) was initiated in 2024 to evaluate the benefit of tocilizumab therapy on health-related quality of life in patients with long COVID and persistent inflammation (ISRCTN46454974).

NameTrade nameCompanyClinical PhaseIndications
tocilizumab-bavi; BIIB800Tofidence BiogenApproved (2023)As per reference agent
QX003Sn/aQyuns Therapeutics1 [19]inflammatory/immune diseases
tocilizumab-aazg; MSB11456TyenneFresenius KabiApproved (2024)As per reference agent
LZM008n/a Livzon Mabpharm1 [3]inflammatory/immune diseases
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View more information in the IUPHAR Pharmacology Education Project: tocilizumab

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Summary of Clinical Use Click here for help
Tocilizumab had been approved in Japan in 2005 as a treament for giant lymph node hyperplasia (Castleman's disease) [8], before being granted EMA and FDA approvals for use as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis [7,11] and systemic and polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis [18].
In May 2017 tocilizumab became the first FDA approved drug for the treatment of adults with giant cell arteritis.
Phase 3 clinical trials for immune conditions including ankylosing spondylitis, hand osteoarthritis, systemic sclerosis and primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) are ongoing. Tocilizumab was initally used off-label to manage severe or life-threatening cytokine release syndrome (CRS), which is a serious, and potentially life-threatening side effect of CAR T-cell therapy. In September 2017, the FDA extended tocilizumab approval to include treatment of CAR T-cell therapy-induced CRS. It was approved particularly to manage CRS in patients ≥2 years of age receiving tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah®,CTL019), the first CAR T-cell therapy approved for relapsed and refractory B-cell ALL.

SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: China's National Health Commission authorised tocilizumab as a treatment for serious COVID-19 lung damage early on in the outbreak. The Chinese Clinical Trial Registry has two studies that are designed to evaluate tocilizumab efficacy in patients with severe COVID-19 pneumonia (Registration Numbers ChiCTR2000029765 and ChiCTR2000030442). Results from an observational study, of low-dose tocilizumab in patients with confirmed elevations in inflammatory markers, showed an indication of reduced mortality [1]. This finding was not confirmed by preliminary results from Roche's Phase 3 COVACTA RCT (NCT04320615). The limitations and differences between the studies, and reasoning that might explain the apparently contradictory findings are discussed by Campochiaro and Dagna (2020) [2]. In addition, early results from 20 severe COVID-19 patients treated with tocilizumab have been posted on the preprint server of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ChinaRix) (url, DOI: 10.12074/202003.00026). Tocilizumab appears to have reduced disease symptoms and aided full recovery in 19/20 patients. In mid-March 2020, the National Cancer Institute in Naples (Italy) began a Phase 2 observational trial of tocilizumab in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia; this study is named TOCIVID-19, and has registry ID NCT04317092.
Mechanism Of Action and Pharmacodynamic Effects Click here for help
Binds to soluble and membrane-bound IL-6 receptors to inhibit IL-6 signalling via these receptors [9-10], thereby reducing the effect of the elevated/deregulated circulating IL-6 which is a hallmark of the targeted chronic autoimmume diseases.
Clinical Trials
Clinical Trial ID Title Type Source Comment References
NCT04356937 Efficacy of Tocilizumab on Patients With COVID-19 Phase 3 Interventional Massachusetts General Hospital 15
NCT04346355 Efficacy of Early Administration of Tocilizumab in COVID-19 Patients Phase 2 Interventional Azienda Unità Sanitaria Locale Reggio Emilia 14
NCT04331808 CORIMUNO-19 - Tocilizumab Trial - TOCI (CORIMUNO-TOCI) Phase 2 Interventional Assistance Publique - Hôpitaux de Paris 6
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