WHO rejects antiviral drug remdesivir as a COVID treatment

Although remdesivir (Veklury—Gilead Sciences) became the first FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday recommended against its use.

Although remdesivir (Veklury—Gilead Sciences) became the first FDA-approved treatment for COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday recommended against its use. After reviewing evidence from four trials, an expert panel convened by WHO determined that "remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement." The so-called living guideline, published in the BMJ, did not entirely dismiss the use of the antiviral for COVID-19 but found the data inadequate to recommend it. A large NIH-backed study had reported that remdesivir reduced recovery time in hospitalized patients from 15 to 11 days, but two other trials lacked the placebo controls considered important for evaluating efficacy. Meanwhile, findings from the largest study to date—which has not yet undergone peer review or been accepted for journal publication—challenged the benefits shown in the NIH trial. Still, Bram Rochwerg, MD, co-chair of the WHO panel, said the experts clearly expressed "that trials of remdesivir should continue, and there may be specific populations that could benefit."