Skip to main content

WHO Says Remdesivir Should Not Be Used for Covid-19

Panel says there’s ‘no evidence’ Gilead's antiviral improves survival rates.

A World Health Organization panel on Friday advised doctors against using Gilead Sciences’  (GILD)  antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients hospitalized with Covid-19.

The WHO said there is currently “no evidence” that it improves survival rates or the need for ventilation in a report published in British medical journal The BMJ.

According to the report, the largest trial to date of treatments repurposed for use in the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that none of the four drugs studied produced any measurable benefit in mortality or disease course. “This includes remdesivir -- a drug already recommended by several guidelines and pre-ordered by numerous governments around the world.”

Shares of Gilead edged down 0.44% in after-hours trade Thursday.

CNBC reported that Gilead spokesman Chris Ridley, in an emailed statement, 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 [remdesivir] as the first and only approved antiviral treatment for patients with COVID-19 in approximately 50 countries.”

Remdesivir, also known as Veklury, was approved in October by the Food and Drug Administration for adults and children 12 years of age and older who require hospitalization for Covid-19. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that it modestly reduced the recovery time in some patients who were hospitalized with Covid-19. It was one of the drugs given to President Donald Trump who had the virus in October.

The WHO said in a news release, “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.”

But the WHO panel acknowledged that evidence so far does not prove that remdesivir “has no benefit,” CNBC noted.