Two other drugs: WHO recommends new therapies against Covid-19

Two other drugs
WHO recommends new therapies for Covid-19

One is normally used as an arthritis drug, the other is based on monoclonal antibodies: with two new drugs, the WHO is now advocating a total of five Covid-19 therapies. However, only for certain groups of patients.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends two other drugs for the treatment of patients with Covid-19. These are the active substance baricitinib, which was developed to treat rheumatoid arthritis, and sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody specially developed for Covid-19 patients.

The new recommendation is based on seven studies involving more than 4,000 patients, WHO experts reported in the trade magazine “The BMJ”. Critically ill Covid-19 patients would have a better chance of survival on baricitinib and the need for mechanical ventilation would be reduced, according to the new directive. No side effects were observed. The drug should be administered in combination with corticosteroids.

Covid-19 patients with less severe illness but at high risk of hospitalization could benefit from the use of the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab, writes WHO. These are, for example, the elderly, people who are immunocompromised or suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes. The product with the brand name Xevudy is also approved in the EU. The benefit of sotrovimab is considered to be low for patients outside the risk groups. In addition, according to WHO experts, the effectiveness of the drug against the highly contagious variant of omicron is “still uncertain”.

WHO has already refused several treatments

So far, only three other treatments for Covid disease are recommended by the WHO. As of September 2020, this includes treating critically ill patients with corticosteroids. Corticosteroids fight the inflammation that is usually associated with severe cases of corona. They are inexpensive and widely available. In July, the WHO also approved the use of the arthritis drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab. These suppress a dangerous overreaction of the immune system to the SARS-CoV-2 virus by inhibiting the protein Interlokin-6 (IL-6), which regulates inflammatory reactions.

Baricitinib belongs to a different class of drugs but falls under the same guidelines as IL-6 inhibitors. “If both are available,” doctors should decide for themselves which agent to use, “based on cost, availability and the practitioner’s experience,” WHO experts recommended. Baricitinib is one of the so-called Janus kinase inhibitors, which are used against rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease.

However, other drugs in this family (ruxolitinib and tofacitinib) should not be used against Covid, WHO experts have warned. There was a lack of data on their effectiveness or side effects in the treatment of corona patients. WHO recommendations for the treatment of Covid are regularly updated on the basis of clinical studies. However, the therapeutic arsenal is still weak. In recent months, the WHO has rejected several treatment methods: injection of plasma from patients recovered from Covid, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.


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