WHO approves two new treatments for COVID-19: All you need to know about Baricitinib and Sotrovimab

The news comes as Omicron cases is adding pressure on the already-stressed health infrastructure around the world

Medical staff members tend to a Covid-19 patient at the intensive care unit of Cremona hospital in Italy. AFP

At a time when COVID-19 cases are surging and hospitals are struggling with the caseload, the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved two new, growing the arsenal of tools along with vaccines to stave off severe illness and death from the virus.

Here’s what we know so far:

Baricitinib to be used in COVID fight

On Thursday, the WHO in British medical Journal, the BMJ, strong recommended the use of Eli Lilly’s baricitinib, sold under brand name Olumiant, for patients with severe COVID-19 in combination with corticosteroids.

Baricitinib is a drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Baricitinib is a type of drug known as an Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitor and was shown to have similar effects as other arthritis drugs called interleukin-6 (IL-6) inhibitors, or monoclonal antibodies.
When used in combination with corticosteroids, baricitinib was shown to be more effective than IL-6 inhibitors.

“Baricitinib and IL-6 receptor blockers have similar effects; when both are available, choose one based on issues including cost and clinician experience,” wrote researchers in the peer-reviewed journal, British Journal of Medicine.

The WHO guidelines noted that evidence shows baricitinib improves survival rate and reduces the need for ventilation, with no observed increase in adverse effects.

French medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) welcomed the United Nations agency’s guidelines, and said baricitinib can be a potential alternative to current WHO-recommended monoclonal antibody treatments that remain in short supply for governments and patients in many low- and middle-income countries.

GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, Inc’s Sotrovimab

The WHO also stated that GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology, Inc’s designed Sotrovimab can be used on people with non-serious COVID-19 at highest risk of hospitalisation, such as the elderly, people with immune-deficiencies or chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Sotrovimab is a monoclonal antibody drug that appears to be effective against the highly transmissible Omicron variant. It is a single monoclonal antibody that works by binding to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, thereby preventing the virus from attaching to and entering human cells

Health Canada had started using this drug back in July and it has been used effectively against the Omicron COVID-19 variant. According to a Global News report, dated 2 January 2022, Canada has received 10,000 doses of sotrovimab from Parma, Italy, Public Services and Procurement.

United Kingdom has also approved of the use of sotrovimab, saying it is most effective when taken during the early stages of infection and so is recommended for use within five days of symptoms starting.

COVID across the world

Two years into the pandemic, it appears that COVID-19 is showing no signs of abating, with Omicron and Delta variants driving up hospitalisation numbers.

According to Johns Hopkins, the world has now 319,964,960 coronavirus cases and has witnessed 5,520,460 deaths worldwide.

According to reported information, COVID-19 hospitalisations in the United States have increased by about 33 percent and deaths are up by about 40 percent from a week earlier, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Wednesday. The increasing number of infections have stressed the healthcare infrastructure in the US, especially testing facilities, in several countries, including the US.

On Friday, India reported 2,64,202 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, with the total tally of Omicron infections climbing to 5,753, up 4.83 per cent since yesterday.

With inputs from agencies

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FP Staff

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