New Delhi, January 14
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday recommended two new drugs for Covid, providing more options for treating the disease. The extent to which the medicines will save lives depends on how widely available and affordable these will be.
The first drug, baricitinib, is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical Covid, the WHO said, noting that the fourth pandemic wave driven by Omicron in Africa was flattening after a six-week surge. The WHO, however, cautioned nations against treating Omicron as “common cold or mild”, citing record 15 million infections in seven days.
Baricitinib is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system. It’s an oral drug used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
The World Health Organization has also conditionally recommended the monoclonal antibody drug sotrovimab for treating mild or moderate Covid in patients who are at high risk of hospitalisation. This includes patients who are older, immunocompromised, having underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity and those unvaccinated.
“About 15 million cases in seven days is a record high. We have seen 43,000 deaths. You do see a lower proportion of cases dying but as Omicron circulates among the vulnerable, we will see increasing hospitalisations and deaths,” said WHO technical lead on Covid Maria Van Kerkhove.
Baricitinib: Used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, it’s recommended for patients with severe or critical Covid
Sotrovimab: Conditionally recommended for mild or moderate patients facing high hospitalization risk