WHO recommends Genentech, Sanofi anti-inflammatory antibodies to treat severe COVID-19

The World Health Organization on July 6 recommended a cocktail of two anti-inflammatory antibodies, tocilizumab and sarilumab, to treat patients with severe COVID-19.

Roche subsidiary Genentech sells tocilizumab under the brand name Actemra, and Sanofi sells sarilumab under the brand name Kevzara. Both drugs are monoclonal antibodies that inhibit a protein called interleukin-6, which is believed to contribute to the hyper-inflammation experienced by some COVID-19 patients.

The WHO made its recommendation the same day research on the drugs' efficacy in treating COVID-19 was published in JAMA. Researchers analyzed 27 randomized trials across 28 countries that involved 10,930 patients. 

The research team found that the antibodies reduced COVID-19 patients' mortality risk and need for ventilation. They also found the drugs were most effective when administered with corticosteroids.

On June 24, the FDA authorized Actemra to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Kevzara has not been approved by any regulatory bodies to treat COVID-19.


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