Latest recommendations call for new patent waiver calls to give more people access to treatments.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has added two more drugs to its guidelines for recommended treatments for COVID-19, as the more contagious Omicron variant of the coronavirus causes an unprecedented increase in cases around the world.
The drug baricitinib, which is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is “strongly recommended” for patients with severe or critical COVID-19, in combination with corticosteroids, the UN agency’s panel of international experts said in the guidelines issued by the British were published. Medical Journal.
The drug reduces the need for ventilation and has been found to improve patients’ chances of survival without any sign of an increase in adverse reactions, the panel said.
The panel also gave a “conditional recommendation” for sotrovimab, an experimental monoclonal antibody treatment, for those with non-severe COVID-19 but at the highest risk for hospitalization. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-created compounds that mimic the body’s natural defense mechanism.
The new treatment recommendations come as the pandemic accelerates worldwide. More than 15 million new cases of COVID-19 have been reported to the WHO in the past week – by far the most in a single week – driven by the Omicron variant, which replaces the Delta variant almost everywhere.
The recommendations are based on new evidence from seven trials involving more than 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe and critical cases of COVID-19.
The “guidance contributes to previous recommendations for the use of interleukin-6 receptor blockers and systemic corticosteroids for patients with severe or critical covid-19; conditional recommendations for the use of casirivimab-imdevimab (another monoclonal antibody treatment) in selected patients; and against the use of recovery plasma, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine in patients with covid-19, regardless of the severity of the disease, ”the WHO said in a statement.
The French humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomed the new recommendations and urged governments to address patent protection to ensure that as many people as possible will benefit from the treatments.
Baricitinib is manufactured by the American pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, and although generic versions are available in India and Bangladesh, patents are in force in many other countries, including Brazil and Indonesia.
“For almost two years, we have been helplessly watching people die from COVID-19 amid catastrophic waves of disease. In countries where MSF operates,” said Dr Márcio da Fonseca, medical adviser for infectious diseases for the MSF Access Campaign. statement said.
“The possibilities for providing high-level intensive care are limited, so saving more lives from people with serious and critical infections is very much dependent on access to affordable medicine that we can add to the steroids, oxygen and close supportive care we provide. already provided in our projects. As new treatments emerge, it will simply be inhuman if they remain unavailable in resource-constrained environments, simply because they are patented and too expensive. ”
In recent weeks, government regulators have also approved new oral treatments for the disease, including Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pill, which has shown nearly 90 percent efficacy in preventing hospitalization and death in high-risk patients. It also maintained its efficiency with Omicron, the company said.