WHO adds another lifesaving drug to the list of COVID-19 medicines

When administered, tocilizumab and sarilumab reduce the odds of death by 13 per cent, compared to standard care

By DTE Staff
Published: Wednesday 07 July 2021

The WHO has added life-saving interleukin-6 receptor blockers in its list of medicines for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It is a set of medicines that are administered to severely or critically ill COVID-19 patients.

These medicines should be given along with corticosteroids — an anti-inflammatory drug. Critically ill COVID-19 patients suffer from an overreaction of the immune system that can be harmful to their health.

Interleukin-6 blocking drugs — tocilizumab and sarilumab — act to suppress this overreaction. When administered, these drugs reduce the odds of death by 13 per cent, compared to standard care. These medicines also reduced the number of patients who needed ventilators by 28 per cent.

Clinical trial investigators in 28 countries shared data of over 10,000 patients enrolled in 27 trial centers with the WHO. These drugs are inaccessible and unaffordable for the majority of the world, especially in low- and middle-income countries.

The price of 600 mg tocilizumab dose for COVID-19 ranges from $410 to $3,625. But the production cost of the drug is just $40 for a 400mg dose. The WHO has urged drug manufacturers to reduce prices and make supplies available for these countries.

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