High dose subcutaneous Anakinra to treat acute respiratory distress syndrome secondary to cytokine storm syndrome among severely ill COVID-19 patients.J Autoimmun. 2020 12; 115:102537.JA
Severely ill COVID-19 patients may end in acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and multi-organ failure. Some of them develop a systemic hyperinflammatory state produced by the massive release of inflammatory agents, known as cytokine storm syndrome (CSS). Inhibition of IL-1 by Anakinra (ANK) is a potential life-saving therapy for severe CSS cases. We propose a rationale for the use of subcutaneous ANK and review our initial experience in a small cohort of severe COVID-19 CSS patients.
Retrospective cohort study of COVID-19 patients developing ARDS (PaO2/FiO2 <300) and exhibiting signs of hyperinflammation (ferritin >1000 ng/mL and/or d-dimers > 1.5 μg/mL, plus IL-6 < 40 mg/mL) that received ANK. For comparison, a propensity score matched historical cohort of patients treated with IL-6 inhibitor Tocilizumab (TCZ) was used. Patients had previously received combinations of azithromycin, hydroxy-chloroquine, and methyl-prednisolone. Laboratory findings, respiratory function and adverse effects were monitored. Resolution of ARDS within the first 7 days of treatment was considered a favorable outcome.
Subcutaneous ANK (100 mg every 6 h) was given to 9 COVID-19 ARDS CSS patients (77.8% males). Median age was 62 years (range, 42 to 87). A TCZ cohort of 18 patients was selected by propensity score matching and treated with intravenous single dose of 600 mg for patients weighing >75 Kg, or 400 mg if < 75 Kg. Prior to treatment, median PaO2/FiO2 ratio of the ANK and TCZ cohorts were 193 and 249, respectively (p = 0.131). After 7 days of treatment, PaO2/FiO2 ratio improved in both groups to 279 (104-335) and 331 (140-476, p = 0.099) respectively. On day 7, there was significant reduction of ferritin (p = 0.046), CRP (p = 0.043), and IL-6 (p = 0.043) levels in the ANK cohort but only of CRP (p = 0.001) in the TCZ group. Favorable outcome was achieved in 55.6% and 88.9% of the ANK and TCZ cohorts, respectively (p = 0.281). Two patients that failed to respond to TCZ improved after ANK treatment. Aminotransferase levels significantly increased between day 1 and day 7 (p = 0.004) in the TCZ group. Mortality was the same in both groups (11%). There were not any opportunistic infection in the groups nor other adverse effects attributable to treatment.
Overall, 55.6% of COVID-19 ARDS CSS patients treated with ANK exhibited favorable outcome, not inferior to a TCZ treated matched cohort. ANK may be a potential alternative to TCZ for patients with elevated aminotransferases, and may be useful in non-responders to TCZ.