WHO advises against remdesivir for those hospitalised with Covid-19

LONDON • Pharmaceutical firm Gilead’s remdesivir is not recommended for patients hospitalised with Covid-19, regardless of how ill they are, as there is no evidence the drug improves survival or reduces the need for ventilation, a World Health Organisation (WHO) panel said yesterday.

“The panel found a lack of evidence that remdesivir improved outcomes that matter to patients such as reduced mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and others,” the guideline said.

The advice is another setback for the drug, which grabbed global attention as a potentially effective treatment for Covid-19 after early trials showed some promise.

Remdesivir, also known as Veklury, is currently authorised to treat Covid-19 patients in more than 50 countries. But a WHO-led trial known as the Solidarity Trial showed it had little or no effect on 28-day mortality or length of hospital stays for Covid-19 patients.

Remdesivir was one of the drugs used to treat United States President Donald Trump’s infection, and had been shown in previous studies to have cut time to recovery.

Gilead has questioned the Solidarity Trial’s results. “Veklury is recognised as a standard of care for the treatment of hospitalised patients with Covid-19 in guidelines from numerous credible national organisations,” Gilead said.

The WHO said its recommendation, which is not binding, was based on an evidence review that included data from four international randomised trials involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalised with Covid-19.

Professor of emerging infectious diseases Peter Horby from the University of Oxford said the advice should prompt a rethink.

“Remdesivir is an expensive drug that must be given intravenously for five to 10 days, so this recommendation will save money and other healthcare resources,” he said.


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