April 13: Amid the surge in demand for antiviral drug Remdesivir, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that there is still no evidence to suggest that the drug is useful in treating hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
WHO’s Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan and its Technical Lead on Covid, Dr Maria Van Kerkhove on Monday said that the results from five clinical trials in the past suggest that the use of Remdesivir has not helped in reducing mortality or reducing the need for mechanical ventilation among hospitalized patients.
Speaking about the previous clinical trials of Remdesivir, Dr Swaminathan said, “Based on available evidence, there were about five trials… which essentially showed that Remdesivir given to hospitalized patients didn’t reduce mortality, it didn’t reduce the duration of hospitalization, and it didn’t affect the progression of the disease“.
WHO GUIDELINES ON REMDESIVIR
Based on the clinical trials, the WHO had issued guidelines against the use of Remdesivir in hospitalized patients last year.
WHO Technical Lead Dr Van Kerkhove said, “We currently have made a conditional recommendation against the use of Remdesivir for hospitalized Covid patients, regardless of the disease’s severity because of lack of evidence showing that it improves survival and other outcomes but we are constantly looking at clinical trials that are underway.”
The guidelines development group of WHO puts out guidance on possible treatments of Covid-19. The guidance is a living document that can change with more data from clinical trials.
“We are looking at any emerging data which will be used to update the guidelines,” Dr Maria Van Kerkhove added.
SILVER LINING IN CASE OF REMDESIVIR
Pointing out the only possible silver lining in the case of Remdesivir, Dr Swaminathan said, “There are smaller studies that have shown, in some small subgroups, perhaps some marginal benefits, like some patients who need low flow oxygen, the NIH trial showed that there was perhaps a marginal mortality benefit but that is a very small subgroup of patients.”
They further added that the global health body was still awaiting results from a larger clinical trial to see if the drug could be helpful in the treatment of Covid cases at all.
The data of the trial is likely to come up in a few weeks’ time. Meanwhile, there have been several cases of black-marketing and hoarding of the drug.
INDIA BANS EXPORT OF REMDESIVIR AMID SPIKE IN DEMAND
Earlier, keeping in mind the sudden spike in its demand, the government of India had put a ban on the export of Remdesivir and its Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (API). Remdesivir injections are being frequently prescribed by doctors for the treatment of Covid-19 cases in India.