The WHO recommends not administering remdesivir to hospitalized Covid-19 patients, because this antiviral drug does not prevent death or severe forms of the disease, she announced on Friday.
“The antiviral drug remdesivir is not recommended for patients admitted to hospital with Covid-19, regardless of the severity of their disease, as there is currently no evidence that it improves the survival or that it avoids being placed on artificial ventilation, “said the World Health Organization (WHO) in a statement.
It decided after the opinion of its panel of experts, whose conclusions are published in the medical journal BMJ.
These experts point out “the possibility of significant side effects” of this drug, as well as “its relatively high cost and logistical implications”, since “it must be administered intravenously”.
Initially developed against Ebola hemorrhagic fever, remdesivir is sold by the Gilead laboratory under the trade name of Veklury.
On July 3, it became the first drug against Covid to receive conditional European marketing authorization. However, it arouses more enthusiasm in North America than on the Old Continent.
In France, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) judged that its interest (or “actual benefit”) was “low”.
In addition, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said on October 2 that it would investigate reports that “acute kidney problems” could be linked to taking remdesivir.
WHO experts based their conclusions on the analysis of four international clinical trials comparing the effectiveness of different treatments and involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalized for Covid-19.
A study made public in mid-October and carried out in more than thirty countries with the support of the WHO already concluded that remdesivir had not shown any benefit in terms of reducing mortality.
According to a study published at the end of May in the American journal New England Journal of Medicine, it slightly reduces the recovery time of hospitalized Covid-19 patients (from 15 to 11 days on average).
WHO experts point out that it cannot be said at this stage that remdesivir has no benefit. But the fact that its effectiveness has not been proven combined with its drawbacks (possible side effects and cost) leads them not to recommend it.
At the end of October, Gilead announced that remdesivir had already earned him nearly $ 900 million in the third quarter.
For now, corticosteroids (including dexamethasone) are the only treatment that has reduced mortality from Covid-19, although this is only true for one category of patients (severe cases that require administration of oxygen). WHO has recommended their “systematic use in patients with severe or critical form”.