Story at a glance

  • The recommendations were published Thursday in the medical journal The BMJ.
  • The panel said more research is needed and supports continued enrollment in trials evaluating the drug.
  • Gilead Sciences pushed back against WHO’s recommendations, saying they’re inconsistent with robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate the benefits of the drug in treating COVID-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is now recommending against the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19, regardless of how severely ill they are, saying there is no evidence it improves survival or shortens recovery time. 

The WHO Guideline Development Group, a panel of experts who provide guidance to the health agency, published its recommendations in the medical journal The BMJ on Thursday. 


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“After thoroughly reviewing this evidence, the WHO GDG expert panel, which includes experts from around the world including four patients who have had COVID-19, 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 panel said in a statement

The panel said more research is needed, and it supports continued enrollment in trials evaluating the drug. 

Medical experts have gone back and forth on whether remdesivir, known by its brand name Veklury, should be used to treat severely ill coronavirus patients. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration in October approved the drug for use in adults and pediatric patients 12 years of age and older who require hospitalization for COVID-19. It’s the first and only drug approved in the U.S. to treat the coronavirus. 

The approval came after the drug showed to be moderately effective in improving the outcomes for hospitalized patients. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found severely hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 who received the drug recovered in 11 days compared to 15 days for patients on a placebo. 

The WHO in October released a study that found the drug had little or no effect on mortality. The study found the drugs remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens reduced patient mortality or shortened recovery time. 

Gilead Sciences, the drugmaker behind remdesivir, pushed back against WHO’s recommendations, saying they’re inconsistent with robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate the benefits of the drug in treating COVID-19. 

“We are disappointed the WHO guidelines appear to ignore this evidence at a time when cases are dramatically increasing around the world and doctors are relying on Veklury as the first and only approved antiviral treatment for patients with COVID-19 with approvals or authorizations in approximately 50 countries,” Gilead Sciences said in a statement


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Published on Nov 20, 2020