WHO Says No to Remdesivir as COVID-19 Treatment

By Robert Preidt
HealthDay reporter

FRIDAY, November 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) – The antiviral drug remdesivir is not recommended for COVID-19 hospital patients because there is no evidence that it reduces their need for ventilation or improves their chances of survival, said a panel of the World Health Organization. Thursday.

Remdesivir is considered a potential treatment for severe COVID-19 and is used to treat hospital patients, but its effectiveness is uncertain. Nonetheless, the United States Food and Drug Administration approved the drug to treat COVID-19 hospital patients in October.

In the new assessment, the WHO expert group analyzed data from four international randomized trials that evaluated multiple treatments for COVID-19 and included more than 7,000 COVID-19 hospital patients.

The panel – which included four people who had COVID-19 – concluded that remdesivir did not significantly impact the risk of death or any other outcome important to patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or the time it takes for their condition to improve.

The trial results do not prove that remdesivir has no benefit. Instead, they provide no evidence that the drug improves patient outcomes, the panel explained in an article published Nov. 19 in the BMJmedical journal.

However, given the risk of significant harm, the relatively high cost, and the demands of healthcare workers (remdesivir must be administered intravenously), their recommendation is appropriate, the committee said.

The panel also said it supports continued recruitment into trials evaluating the use of remdesivir in COVID-19 patients, in particular to provide more reliable evidence for specific groups of patients.

The future use of remdesivir in treating COVID-19 patients is unclear, given that it is unlikely to be the life-saving drug many had hoped for, US journalist Jeremy Hsu wrote in an article. from Journal.

He also noted that alternative treatments – such as the inexpensive and widely available corticosteroid dexamethasone, which has been shown to reduce the risk of death in critically ill patients with COVID-19 – are now part of discussions about the value of remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment.

“It has become clear that remdesivir, at best, has a marginal benefit if any on clinical improvement,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore. “It is therefore not surprising that the WHO guidelines committee does not support its use, stressing the need for better treatments that have a more significant impact on patient outcomes.”

More information

For more information on treatments for severe COVID-19, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: BMJ, press release, November 19, 2020; Amesh Adalja, MD, Principal Investigator, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Baltimore

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