WHO: Stop giving COVID-19 patients remdesivir

The World Health Organization on Nov. 20 recommended patients not be given remdesivir to treat COVID-19, saying there is no evidence that the antiviral drug improves patients' disease severity or mortality rates.

Remdesivir became the first FDA-approved COVID-19 treatment Oct. 22, when the drug, which Gilead sells under the brand name Veklury, was approved to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients aged 12 years and older. 

Before issuing its recommendation, WHO published a review of the drug Nov. 19 in The BMJ, in which it said evidence does not support remedesvir has a meaningful effect on COVID-19 patients' health outcomes.

"Especially given the costs and resource implications associated with remdesivir, but consistent with the approach that should be taken with any new drug, the panel felt the responsibility should be on demonstrating evidence of efficacy, which is not established by the currently available data," WHO wrote in its review.

The recommendation acknowledged that the drug need not be written off altogether as a potential COVID-19 treatment, but stated there is not enough evidence to encourage its use.

Gilead told the New York Times remdesivir "is recognized as a standard of care for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in guidelines from numerous credible national organizations" and there are "multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals that demonstrate the clinical benefits of Veklury."

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