FAIR COMMENT | Alito Malinao
The World Health Organization, an agency of the United Nations, has recently announced that the antiviral drug remdesivir should not be used as treatment for Covid-19 patients, an announcement that has baffled medical experts all over the world.
The drug is widely used in hospitals in more than 50 countries and was one of the medicines administered to U.S. President Donald Trump when he was diagnosed with coronavirus in October.
It was also the same drug given to Mel Gibson and other Hollywood celebrities who have recovered from the virus.
Remdesivir, also known as Veklury, and steroid dexamethasone are the only drugs authorized to treat Covid-19 patients across the world. But the largest study on remdesivir’s efficacy, run by WHO, showed on Oct. 15 that it had little or no impact at all, contradicting previous trials.
Here in the Philippines, remdesiver is being used to treat coronavirus patients, according to Dr. Tony Leachon, a cardiologist and former consultant of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).
So, why the WHO announcement? If the drug has saved thousands, if not millions, of lives why should it be banned? And why did WHO not suggest a replacement drug?
Remdesivir, like any other drugs, has shown some potential side-effects on the kidneys, according to data shared by Gilead with the European Medicines Agency, which is assessing its possible toxicity. But any doctor would tell you that all drugs have their benefits and side-effects.
There are disturbing aspects in the way WHO has responded to the epidemic. One glaring fact is that WHO has shown a perceptible bias against the United States.
Remdesiver has been developed by Gilead, a giant U.S. pharmaceutical firm. Gilead, which has questioned the WHO’s findings, said in a statement: “We are confident that doctors on the front lines recognize the clinical benefit of Veklury based on robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies.”
It was President Trump who first pointed out WHO’s bias against the U.S. and its support for China. Trump said that WHO was complicit with Beijing in China’s efforts to downplay the virus in its earlier stage and in fact, according to Trump, WHO officials tried to dissuade the U.S. from imposing a travel ban on China at the early stage of the plague. It was also WHO that initially announced that Covid-19 could not be transmitted through person-to-person contact.
WHO has also failed to question the low number of infections and deaths from the virus in China. Experts believe that the communist government in Beijing deliberately downplayed the deaths from the plague and since the country is ruled by an authoritarian government, nobody questioned the data released by the government. One cannot believe that there were only less than 10,000 deaths in China compared to more than 250,000 in the U.S.
The U.S. government has also questioned why WHO has not conducted an inquiry into how the virus developed in Wuhan, China. Earlier reports from the Chinese government said that the virus originated from a wet market in Wuhan but other reports said that the virus had been cultured in a Chinese laboratory and had accidentally escaped from the facility.
As a research organization, WHO should have conducted its own investigation as to how the plague has started in Wuhan and who are responsible for the outbreak.