Remdesivir Should Not Be Given to Hospitalised COVID Patients: WHO

They found a lack of evidence that Remdesivir improved outcomes that matter to patients such as reduced mortality.

Published
Treatment & Vaccine
2 min read
“Remdesivir is a drug in search of a disease. It failed in Ebola, it failed in SARS and MERS. So we are skeptical.”
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Remdesivir should not be used in hospitals because there is no evidence it works, the World Health Organisation has said.

On 15th October, the World Health Organisation had released the results from their Solidarity Therapeutics Trial and found that Gilead Sciences Inc’s Remdesivir had either no or very little effect on COVID-19 patient’s chances of survival or length of hospital stay.

Despite the results, the UD FDA had gone ahead and given the drug emergency approval on 23rd October. Giliead is disputing the solidarity trial results.

The WHO has now issued a “living guideline”.

"The panel found a lack of evidence that Remdesivir improved outcomes that matter to patients such as reduced mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and others,” the guideline said.

What is Remdesivir's Status in India?

Remdesivir is given intravenously and is prohibitive in cost. A 5 day treatment can cost up to Rs 30-40,000. In India, it continues to be part of COVID treatment protocols, though its presence in the protocols is now being challenged in the Supreme Court.

FIT had earlier spoken to intensivist Dr Sumit Ray, a senior consultant of Critical Care Medicine at Holy Family Hospital in Delhi, who runs a COVID ward, to find out more.

“There was an article that said Remdesivir is a drug in search of a disease. It failed in Ebola, it failed in SARS and MERS. So we were skeptical,” he said.

The WHO’s Guideline Development Group panel said it reviewed data from four international randomised trials involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalised with Covid-19. The panel pointed to the prohibitive costs and said,

“Especially given the costs and resource implications associated with Remdesivir the panel felt the responsibility should be on demonstrating evidence of efficacy, which is not established by the currently available data."

What is Remdesivir?

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug developed by American pharmaceutical giant Gilead Sciences. It was made to treat hepatitis C and respiratory syncytial viruses over a decade ago, but it never got marketing approval.

Antivirals are drugs used for treating viral infections.

COVID-19 brought the drug back into the picture - and US President Trump offered Remdesivir to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, despite no clinical evidence that it worked for COVID-19. Gilead too did not claim it worked, but it became thrust into the limelight as a potentially promising drug. Soon in April, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study where out of 61 patients who were hospitalised with COVID-19, 53 were given the drug and 68 per cent improved while 13 per cent died. However, they were not able to say this was due to the drug as there was no control group. It is important to note that Gilead employees co-authored the paper. “This presents a huge conflict of interest,” says Dr Ray.

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