Paris: The World Health Organization on Friday approved two new COVID-19 treatments, expanding its arsenal of vaccines as well as tools to prevent serious illness and virus deaths.
Hospitals around the world are overcrowded because of Omicron. The WHO estimates that half of Europe will be infected by March.
In their recommendation in the British medical journal BMJ, WHO experts said the arthritis drug baricitinib, used with corticosteroids to treat severe or covid patients, improved survival rates and reduced the need for ventilators.
Experts have also recommended the synthetic antibody treatment sotrovimab for people with non-severe COVID-19 at highest risk of hospitalization, such as those with immunodeficiencies or chronic diseases such as diabetes.
The benefits of sotrovimab for those at risk of hospitalization were deemed insignificant and the WHO said its effectiveness against new variants such as Omicron was “still uncertain”.
Starting with corticosteroids for critically ill patients in September 2020, only three other treatments for COVID-19 have received WHO approval.
Corticosteroids are inexpensive and widely available and fight inflammation, which usually accompanies severe cases.
The arthritis drugs tocilizumab and serilumab, approved by the WHO in July, are IL-6 inhibitors that suppress a dangerous overreaction of the immune system to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
Baricitinib is in a different class of drugs known as Janus kinase inhibitors, but it falls under the same guidelines as IL-6 inhibitors.
“When both are available, choose one based on issues including cost and physician experience,” the guidelines say.
The synthetic antibody treatment Regeneron was approved by the WHO in September and the guidelines say sotrovimab can be used for the same type of patients.
WHO’s COVID treatment recommendations are updated regularly based on new data from clinical trials.
first published:Jan. 14, 2022, 9:56 a.m.