The World Health Organization is recommending two new drugs for the treatment of COVID-19, adding to a growing list of therapeutic remedies for the deadly disease.
Baricitinib is an oral medication recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19.It is part of a class of drugs that suppresses the overstimulation of the immune system and is used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
WHO team lead for clinical care, Janet Diaz, says the drug should be given along with corticosteroids, a type of anti-inflammatory treatment. She notes three clinical trials of 2,600 people showed a drop in the mortality of patients with coronavirus infections once they received baricitinib.
She says WHO has also conditionally recommended the use of a monoclonal antibody drug called sotrovimab for treating patients with COVID-19 who have mild or moderate disease.
"Conditional for those patients that are of the highest risk for complications," Diaz said. "This would include patients who are older age, unvaccinated or have underlying conditions. This recommendation is based upon one trial, a well-done trial with just over 1,000 patients. And this trial showed a reduction for the need for hospitalization."
Studies are ongoing on the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies against the omicron variant. While Diaz says early laboratory studies show that sotrovimab continues to be effective against the new coronavirus strain, she says she would not call the drug a game changer.
"I think we have multiple therapeutic options right now for COVID-19 and more are on the way," she said. "Unfortunately, viruses are known to develop resistance to certain drugs. So, SARS COVID-2 is not different in that respect … and if something happens where the resistance does develop, we try to hopefully reduce the chances that happens."
The WHO official says other therapeutics are in the pipeline.
She says WHO is committed to equitable and affordable access for all member-states to COVID-19 drugs, and the agency and partners are meeting with pharmaceutical companies to negotiate fair prices and access for low- and middle-income countries to life-saving treatments.