WHO Advises Against Use of Gilead's Remdesivir as Coronavirus Treatment

WHO advises against use of remdesivir for treating COVID-19

The FDA approved remdesivir as a treatment for severe COVID-19 cases last month, after granting emergency authorization in May.

Remdesivir is now approved for use as a COVID-19 in over 50 countries and was one of the medications administered to US President Donald Trump when he was diagnosed in October.

A World Health Organization (WHO) expert panel has advised against the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir for patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, regardless of how severely ill they are, because there is now no evidence that it improves survival or the need for ventilation.

Indeed, despite its initial promise, remdesivir has mostly failed to live up to the hype in subsequent studies.

Scratching one of the few treatments that had shown some initial promise in severe patients, a WHO Guideline Development Group (GDG) of worldwide experts said there was "no evidence based on now available data that it does improve patient-important outcomes".

World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan on Friday said that antiviral drug Remdesivir, often used in the treatment of coronavirus infection, has been dropped from the prequalification list - an official list of medicines - because of negative recommendations.

President Donald Trump removes his mask as he stands on the Blue Room Balcony upon returning to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, in Washington, after leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, in Bethesda, Md.

"The trial showed an approximately one-day reduction in median recovery time for patients treated with the combination versus those treated with remdesivir", the article read.

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Emily Smith, a professor of public health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at The George Washington University says the early studies did show a small benefit from remdesivir in some hospitalized patients.

Those broader considerations that the World Health Organization is considering include the cost of remdesivir, the complexity of administering it in a medical setting, the potential risks giving it as an infusion - and weighing that against the potential benefits.

The new findings "suggest that the immune system can remember the virus for years, and most people may be protected from severe Covid-19 for a substantial time", said study leaders Shane Crotty and Alessandro Sette.

However, given the remaining possibility of important harm, as well as the relatively high cost and resource implications associated with remdesivir (it must be given intravenously), they judged this to be an appropriate recommendation. A typical treatment course requiring six or more doses costs thousands of dollars per patient.

The WHO's recommendation is part of a living guideline to help doctors make better decisions with their patients. "Remdesivir has been recommended in several COVID-19 treatment guidelines so this new analysis will necessitate a rethink about the place of remdesivir in COVID-19".

The European Commission on Friday said there had been no change in the authorized uses of remdesivir. Last month, remdesivir earned full FDA approval.

World Health Organization chief clinician Janet Diaz told a press conference from Geneva that there was no clear evidence that the use of remdesivir reduced the risk of death or the need for oxygen support.

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