WHO recommends ‘lifesaving’ drugs for severely ill COVID-19 patients




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FILE PHOTO: A pharmacist displays a box of tocilizumab, which is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, at the pharmacy of Cambrai hospital, France, April 28, 2020. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol/File Photo

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has added interleukin-6 receptor blockers, to its list of treatments for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

This is contained in a statement on Wednesday.

The world health body stated that the update was the findings from a prospective and a living network meta-analysis initiated by WHO, the largest such analysis on the drugs to date.

“Data from 10, 000 patients enrolled in 27 clinical trials were considered.

“These are the first drugs found to be effective against COVID-19 since corticosteroids were recommended by WHO in September 2020.’’

According to the global health body, patients severely or critically ill with COVID-19 often suffer from an overreaction of the immune system, which can be very harmful to the patient’s health.

“Interleukin-6 blocking drugs – tocilizumab and sarilumab – act to suppress this overreaction.

“The prospective and living network meta-analyses showed that in severely or critically ill patients, administering these drugs reduce the odds of death by 13 per cent, compared to standard care.

“This means that there will be 15 fewer deaths per thousand patients, and as many as 28 fewer deaths for every thousand critically ill patients.’’

stated that the odds of mechanical ventilation among severe and critical patients were reduced by 28 per cent, compared with standard care.

This, according to WHO, translates to 23 fewer patients out of a thousand needing mechanical ventilation.

Clinical trial investigators in 28 countries shared data with WHO, including pre-publication data.

Researchers worldwide compiled and analysed the data. With the support of these critical partnerships, WHO has been able to issue a rapid and trustworthy recommendation for the use of interleukin-6 receptor blockers in severe and critical COVID-19 patients.

The UN correspondent of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) quoted WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, as saying, that these drugs offer hope for patients.

“The drugs offer hope for patients and families who are suffering from the devastating impact of severe and critical COVID-19.

“But IL-6 receptor blockers remain inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of the world.

“The inequitable distribution of vaccines means that people in low- and middle-income countries are most susceptible to severe forms of COVID-19.

“So, the greatest need for these drugs is in countries that currently have the least access. We must urgently change this.”

To increase access and affordability of these life-saving products, WHO calls on manufacturers to reduce prices and make supplies available to low- and middle-income countries, especially where COVID-19 is surging.

WHO also encourages companies to agree to transparent, non-exclusive voluntary licensing agreements using the C-TAP and the Medicines Patent Pool, or to waive exclusivity rights.

In addition, WHO has launched an expression of interest for prequalification of manufacturers of interleukin-6 receptor blockers.

Prequalification of innovator and biosimilar products aims to expand the availability of -assured products and to increase access through competition and reduce prices to meet urgent public health needs.

(NAN)