A trial facilitated by the World Health Organization (WHO) has led the body to advise against the use of antiviral drug remdesivir for hospitalized patients afflicted with Covid19, citing insufficient evidence to support that it is effective in reducing death rates as well as the need for ventilation.
The WHO’s Guideline Development Group (GDG) panel said that they based their recommendation on an evidence review which included data from four international randomized trials, with over 7,000 hospitalized patients. The panel then found that remdesivir, which is costly and not easy to administer (it must be given intravenously), has no profound impact on death rates or other important outcomes for the patient.
They said: “[G]iven the costs and resource implications associated…the panel felt the responsibility should be on demonstrating evidence of efficacy, which is not established by the currently available data.”
Biopharmaceutical firm Gilead, the drug’s manufacturer raised doubts about the trial’s results. “Veklury [remdesivir] is recognized as a standard of care for the treatment of hospitalized patients with Covid19 in guidelines from numerous credible international organizations.
“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 Covid19.”
The health body’s guidelines, however, are not binding. They are part of its “living guidelines” project which aims to provide timely guidance to doctors in making clinical decisions especially in situations such as this.
It can be recalled that remdesivir was used to treat US President Donald Trump when he contracted the virus. Previous studies also showed that the drug shortens recovery time and it is an approved Covid19 treatment in over 50 countries.
WHO’s recommendation also throws into question whether the European Union will need the 500,000 courses of remdesivir it ordered last month, amounting to nearly $1.2 billion.