Antiviral drug remdesivir does not help Covid patients - according to the WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended against the use of remdesivir for those hospitalised due to Covid-19.

Remdesivir is an intravenous antiviral drug made by the US firm Gilead, and was one of the treatments taken by Donald Trump when he developed coronavirus.

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Remdesivir was tested in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, with initial trial evidence suggesting that it could potentially shorten recovery times for severely ill hospitalised patients, explains the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Earlier on in the year, it was also one of the medicines that the US regulatory body - the Food and Drug Administration - gave emergency authorisation to be used against coronavirus.

However, WHO now recommends against the use of the drug, “as there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients.”

‘No important effect on mortality’

This recommendation is part of a ‘living guideline’ on clinical care for Covid-19, and was developed by an international guideline development group made up of 28 clinical care experts, four patient-partners and one ethicist.

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Data reviewed by the panel included results from the WHO Solidarity Trial, alongside three other randomised controlled trials.

The Solidarity Trial was led in several countries and involved allocating patients randomly to several drugs, including remdesivir. The trial found that those who took it were no more likely to survive severe coronavirus than those who did not.

Overall, data from over 7,000 patients across the four trials were considered, with the evidence suggesting that the drug had no important effect on mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and other patient-important outcomes.

However, the guideline development group recognised that more research is needed, especially in order to provide higher certainty of evidence for specific groups of patients.