A World Health Organization panel advised doctors Thursday against using Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with Covid-19, saying there is currently “no evidence” that it improves survival or shortens recovery time — standing in stark contrast to U.S. regulatory guidance on the drug.
The WHO Guideline Development Group, a panel of international experts who provide advice to the agency, said its recommendation is based on new data comparing the effects of several drug treatments, including data from four international randomized trials involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalized with the disease.
“After thoroughly reviewing this evidence, the WHO GDG expert panel, which includes experts from around the world including four patients who have had covid-19, concluded that remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement,” the group wrote in a press release.
The recommendation was published in the British medical trade journal The BMJ on Friday in the U.K.
In an emailed statement, Gilead said remdesivir “is recognized as a standard of care for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in guidelines from numerous credible national organizations, including the US National Institutes of Health and Infectious Diseases Society of America, Japan, UK and Germany.”
“We are disappointed the WHO guidelines appear to ignore this evidence at a time when cases are dramatically increasing around the world and doctors are relying on Veklury as the first and only approved antiviral treatment for patients with COVID-19 in approximately 50 countries,” Gilead spokesman Chris Ridley said in a statement.
Remdesivir, under the brand name Veklury, is administered in a hospital setting via an IV. Gilead has said the medication should only be administered in a hospital or in a health-care setting that can provide acute care comparable with inpatient hospital care.