Amid the rising cases of COVID-19 around the world, the World Health Organization has approved two new treatments for the highly infectious disease. This would help health professionals to better deal with the disease which has caused a large number of deaths. The new treatments along with vaccines can be helpful in controlling the third wave and beyond. This comes at a time when the WHO has already predicted that half of Europe will be infected by March. In their recommendation, WHO experts have said that arthritis drug baricitinib along with corticosteroids resulted in better survival rates in patients who were in a severe or critical stage after getting infected with COVID-19. The experts also said that the use of a combination of these drugs also reduced the need for ventilators.
They have also recommended synthetic antibody treatment Sotrovimab for COVID-19 patients who are not very serious but are at the highest risk of hospitalisation, for example, senior citizens with immunodeficiencies or chronic diseases such as diabetes. The experts said that there were not very significant benefits of sotrovimab in COVID-19 infected people who were not at risk of hospitalisation.
The World Health Organization also said that the effectiveness of the drug against new variants like Omicron was ‘still uncertain.’ Most of the cases now being reported is because of the Omicron variant – which has been already declared as a ‘variant of concern’ by the WHO.
It is pertinent to mention that there are only three other treatments for COVID-19 that have been granted approval by the WHO.
Among these is the use of corticosteroids for severely ill patients in September 2020. The WHO endorsed arthritis drugs tocilizumab and sarilumab in July. These drugs are IL-6 inhibitors that suppress a dangerous overreaction of the immune system to the coronavirus.
Baricitinib is in a different class of drugs known as Janus kinase inhibitors, but it falls under the same guidelines as the IL-6 inhibitors.
“When both are available, choose one based on issues including cost and clinician experience,” the guidelines say.
The body also approved synthetic antibody treatment Regeneron in September and it said in the guidelines that Sortrovimab can be used for the same type of patients. It must be noted that the World Health Organization regularly updated the COVID-19 treatment recommendations based on new data from clinical trials.