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WHO recommends two new drugs to treat COVID-19

The extent to which these medicines, Baricitinib and Sotrovimab, will save lives depends on how widely available and affordable they will be

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The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended two new drugs for treating COVID-19. The extent to which these medicines will save lives depends on how widely available and affordable they will be. The first drug, Baricitinib, is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19. It is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system. WHO recommends that it is given with corticosteroids, as per a statement it released recently.

Apart from it, WHO has conditionally recommended the use of a monoclonal antibody drug, Sotrovimab, for treating mild or moderate COVID-19 in patients who are at high risk of hospitalisation. This includes patients who are older, immunocompromised, having underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity, and those unvaccinated, the statement informed.

The statement also mentioned that the panel of experts developing the guidelines also looked at two other drugs for severe and critical COVID-19: Ruxolitinib and Tofacitinib. Given their uncertain effects, WHO made a conditional recommendation against their use.

The recommendations, forming the eighth update of WHO’s living guidelines on therapeutics and COVID-19, are based on evidence from seven trials involving more than 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe and critical COVID-19. WHO is in discussions with manufacturers to secure global supply capacity and equitable and sustainable access to the newly-recommended therapeutics. The Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) Therapeutics pillar has been engaging with pharmaceutical companies to seek comprehensive access plans for low- and middle-income countries, so that these treatments can be rapidly deployed everywhere, not just in rich countries. The ACT-A is also looking to expand licensing scope to make the products more affordable, the statement concluded.