Covid surge; WHO approves 2 new drugs for Covid-19 treatment

Amid the surge of the infectious variant, Omicron, the World Health Organization(WHO) approved two new Covid-19 treatments on January 14. The WHO panel recommended the use of newly added drugs to combat the deadly virus. 

UN agency’s panel of international experts said baricitinib is a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and is “strongly recommended” for patients with severe or critical Covid-19. The drug can be used in combination with corticosteroids, the experts also said in the guidelines which were published by the British Medical Journal. 

The deadly wave of the Covid-19 Delta variant between April and June 2021 claimed the lives of 240,000 people in India and hampered economic recovery, said the United Nations report. It also warned “similar episodes” would occur soon.

As per the findings by WHO, better survival rates and reduced need for ventilators have been marked with the use of the drug baricitinib used with corticosteroids in Covid-19 patients. The panel also said that increases in adverse reactions have not been identified with the use of the drug.

Experts also recommended synthetic antibody treatment Sotrovimab for people with non-serious Covid at the highest risk of hospitalization, such as the elderly, people with immunodeficiencies, or chronic diseases such as diabetes. Sotrovimab is monoclonal antibodies that are lab-created compounds that mimic the body’s natural immune system.

Moreover, the WHO took the decision to add new drugs after it reported positive results from seven trials involving more than 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical cases of Covid-19.

As of September 2020, only the other three treatments for Covid-19, from corticosteroids for critically ill patients, have been approved by the World Health Organization. 

Corticosteroids are inexpensive and widely available and fight inflammation that commonly accompanies severe cases. Arthritis drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab, which the WHO endorsed in July, are IL-6 inhibitors that suppress a dangerous overreaction of the immune system to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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As per guidelines, one can choose the drugs based on issues including cost and clinic experience as both the drugs are available now in the market. In recent weeks, government regulators have also approved new oral treatments for the disease, including Paxlovid, Pfizer’s antiviral pill, which showed close to 90 percent efficacy in preventing hospital admission and death in high-risk patients. It also retained its effectiveness with Omicron, the company said.