Pune: At least 25 COVID-19 patients, who are in a semi-critical condition at Pune's government-run Sassoon General Hospital, will be administered tocilizumab, a drug which has proven effective in treating the infection.

The new drug, an injection, which costs around Rs 20,000, will be given to 25 patients in the first phase and depending on the results, the Pune Municipal Corporation will decide on its further use, municipal commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said.

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A special task force of specialist doctors set up under the chairmanship of Dr DB Kadam recommended tocilizumab for COVID-19 patients in case their condition worsens, he said.

"After the ethical team gave approval for the use of tocilizumab, we started procuring it for 25 patients in the first phase," Gaikwad said.

The civic body had received protocols for using the drug.

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"Tocilizumab was administered to an anganwadi worker, admitted to Bharti Hospital in a critical condition, who made a remarkable recovery," he said.

Civic hospitals in Mumbai were also using the drug to treat COVID-19 patients and it has given good results, he said.

The task force has recommended the use of the drug in patients below 50 years of age, those with evidence of cytokine storm, requiring oxygen and having persistent fever.