The role of combination immunomodulatory therapy with systemic corticosteroids and tocilizumab (TCZ) for aged patients with COVID-19-associated cytokine release syndrome remains unclear. Methods: We conducted a retrospective single-center study including consecutive patients ≥65 years that developed severe COVID-19 between March 3 and May 1, 2020 and were treated with corticosteroids at various doses (methylprednisolone [0.5 mg/Kg/12 hours to 250 mg/24 hours]), either alone (“CS group”) or associated to intravenous tocilizumab (400-600 mg, one to three doses) (“CS-TCZ group”). Primary outcome was all-cause mortality by day +14, whereas secondary outcomes included mortality by day +28 and clinical improvement (discharge and/or a ≥2-point decrease on a six-point ordinal scale) by day +14. Propensity score (PS)-based adjustment and inverse probability of treatment weights (IPTW) were applied.
Results: Overall, 181 and 80 patients were included in the CS and CS-TCZ groups. All-cause 14-day mortality was lower in the CS-TCZ group, both in the PS-adjusted (hazard ratio [HR]: 0.34; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.17 – 0.68; P-value = 0.002) and IPTW-weighted models (odds ratio [OR]: 0.38; 95% CI: 0.21 – 0.68; P-value = 0.001). This protective effect was also observed for 28-day mortality (PS-adjusted HR: 0.38; 95% CI: 0.21 – 0.72; P-value = 0.003). Clinical improvement by day +14 was higher in the CS-TCZ group in the IPTW analysis only (OR: 2.26; 95% CI: 1.49 – 3.41; P-value <0.001). The occurrence of secondary infection was similar between both groups. Conclusions: The combination of corticosteroids and TCZ was associated with better outcomes among patients ≥65 years with severe COVID-19.