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WHO recommends two new drugs to treat COVID-19

WHO recommends two new drugs to treat COVID-19

The WHO has recommended two new drugs for COVID-19, which offer even more options for treating the disease. The extent to which these drugs will save lives will depend on how widely available and affordable they will be.

The first drug, baricitinib, is highly recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19. It is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase inhibitors (JAK inhibitors), which suppress the overstimulation of the immune system. The WHO recommends giving it along with corticosteroids.

Baricitinib is an oral medicine used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It provides an alternative to other arthritis drugs called interleukin-6 receptor blockers. recommended by the WHO in July 2021.

The WHO has also conditionally recommended the use of a monoclonal antibody, sotrovimab, for the treatment of mild or moderate COVID-19 in patients at high risk of hospitalization. This includes patients who are elderly, immunocompromised, with underlying conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity, and patients who have not been vaccinated.

Sotrovimab is an alternative to casirivimab-imdevimab, a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies recommended by WHO in September 2021. Studies on the efficacy of monoclonal antibodies against Omicron are still ongoing, but early laboratory studies show that sotrovimab retains its activity.

The panel of experts that developed the guidelines also looked at two other drugs for severe and critical COVID-19: ruxolitinib and tofacitinib. Given their uncertain effects, the WHO made a conditional recommendation against their use.

Today’s recommendations, which are the eighth update to WHO’s guidelines for living on therapies and COVID-19, are based on evidence from seven studies involving more than 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe and critical COVID-19.

WHO is in talks with manufacturers to secure global supply capacity and equitable and sustainable access to the newly recommended therapies. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Therapeutics pillar is working with pharmaceutical companies to seek comprehensive access plans for low- and middle-income countries so that these treatments can be rapidly deployed everywhere, not just in rich countries. The ACT-A also wants to expand the licensing scope to make the products more affordable.

The two newly recommended drugs – baricitinib and sotrovimab – have been invited to: WHO prequalification, which assesses the quality, efficacy and safety of priority health products to increase access in lower-income countries.

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Anna Wintour

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