The World Health Organisation has recommended two new drugs for COVID-19, providing yet more options for treating the disease.
The WHO, in a statement on its website, said the extent to which these medicines would save lives depends on how widely available and affordable they would be.
The statement partly reads in part, “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 inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system. WHO recommends that it is given with corticosteroids.
“Baricitinib is an oral drug, used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It provides an alternative to other arthritis drugs called Interleukin-6 receptor blockers, recommended by WHO in July 2021.”
WHO also 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.
“Sotrovimab is an alternative to casirivimab-imdevimab, a monoclonal antibody cocktail recommended by WHO in September 2021. Studies are ongoing on the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies against Omicron but early laboratory studies show that sotrovimab retains its activity,” the statement added.
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 two newly recommended drugs – baricitinib and sotrovimab – have been invited for WHO Prequalification, which assesses the quality, efficacy and safety of priority health products to increase access in lower-income countries.