This Friday, January 14, the World Health Organization has approved two new treatments against Covid-19. From now on, the number of treatments recommended by the United Nation institution is increased to five.
1-Sotrovimab and baricitinib
The opinion was published in the medical journal The BMJ. The WHO experts recommend a treatment called sotrovimab. It is a synthetic antibody treatment. The FDA has issued an emergency approval for this product. The second is baricitinib.
It is typically useful for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Both drugs have a very specific target. Patients who have had Covid without severity but at high risk of hospitalization would need sotrovimab. Its benefit for patients who are not at risk is considered too low.
As for baricitinib, it is recommended for “patients with severe or critical Covid”, to whom it should be given “in combination with corticosteroids”. For these patients, it “improves survival rates and reduces the need for mechanical ventilation. Unfortunately for both treatments, there is no certainty at this time about the new Omicron variant. The experts’ recommendations will be updated as soon as the data allow.
2-Before these two treatments
Before this news, the UN health organization advised the use of three treatments: Ronapreve, “interleukin 6 antagonists” and corticosteroids. Ronapreve refers to synthetic antibodies. The class of drugs called “interleukin 6 antagonists” (tocilizumab and sarilumab) is used since July 2021. Corticosteroids are systematically used for severely affected patients since September 2020. Sotrovimab concerns the same type of patients as Ronapreve.
Moreover, the WHO also considers that other types of drugs of the same family as baricitinib are not likely to cure Covid-19. This is because there is insufficient data to judge their effectiveness or the side effects they may cause.
3-Concern about access to these treatments
Faced with these new recommendations, the reaction of some organizations was not long in coming. The organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a quick appeal to governments. It asks that governments act so that monopolies do not prevent access to these treatments. Dr. Márcio da Fonseca, Medical Advisor in Infectious Diseases, MSF Access Campaign: “For almost two years, we have been helplessly watching people with COVID-19 die amidst catastrophic waves of the disease.
In the countries where MSF works, there are limited opportunities to provide high-level intensive care. Saving more lives of people with severe and critical infections is therefore highly dependent on access to affordable medicines that we can add to the steroids, oxygen, and close supportive care we already provide in our projects.
As new treatments emerge, it would simply be inhumane for them to remain unavailable in resource-limited settings simply because they are patented and too expensive.
“Since the onset of this pandemic, financially constrained countries have faced inequitable access to all the medical tools needed for survival, such as oxygen, vaccines, and tests, due to the hoarding by wealthy countries and the profits made by pharmaceutical companies. With these proven therapies recommended by the WHO, it is now time for low- and middle-income countries to finally have access to these therapies that are already in routine use in many high-income countries.
” It should be noted that WHO’s anti-Covid treatment advisories are frequently updated, based on clinical trials conducted on different types of patients. However, the therapeutic arsenal remains small. It should also be noted that recently, WHO has rejected the use of several treatments: injection of plasma from cured Covid patients, ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.