UNITED NATIONS, Nov 20: The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended against using the antiviral Remdesivir, a drug that had generated intense interest, as a treatment for coronavirus.
An expert panel “concluded that remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement,” the WHO announced. The panel published its review in the journal ‘The BMJ’.
The report did not rule out use of the drug altogether as a Covid treatment, but said evidence was lacking to recommend its use.
Remdesivir has received global attention in treating severe coronavirus cases and is increasingly being used for hospitalized patients. But its role in clinical practice has remained uncertain.
WHO’s recommendation is based on new evidence comparing the effects of
several drugs on treating the virus and includes data from four international
randomized trials involving more than 7,000 COVID-19 inpatients.
After reviewing the evidence, the WHO Guideline Development Group (GDG) expert panel, which includes four patients who have had the coronavirus, concluded that the intravenously administered Remdesivir “has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement”.
The panel acknowledged that the certainty of the evidence is low and did not prove
that Remdesivir has no benefit; but rather, “there is no evidence based on currently available data that it does improve important patient outcomes”, according to the
However, the GDG supported the continued enrolment of patients into Remdesivir evaluation trials to determine whether more substantial evidence can be obtained, especially with regards to specific groups of patients.
The WHO press release also cites a feature article linked in the panel’s BMJ report, which says that the full story of Remdesivir will not be understood until its manufacturer, Gilead, releases full clinical study reports.
In the meantime, reports the journalist who wrote the feature, Jeremy Hsu, alternative treatments such as widely available corticosteroid, dexamethasone, that has been proved to reduce mortality among some severely-ill COVID-19 sufferers, are “now impacting discussions about Remdesivir’s cost-effectiveness”, in the words of the WHO press release.