By Natalie Grover
LONDON (Reuters) – Two Covid-19 antibody treatments are not recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), rendering Omicron and its latest batch of variants obsolete.
The two treatments — designed to work with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to block the virus’ ability to infect cells — were some of the first to be developed early in the outbreak.
The virus has evolved since then, and increasing evidence from laboratory tests shows that two of the treatments – sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab – have some clinical activity against recent replications of the virus. As a result, they are also not approved by US health regulators.
On Thursday, World Health Organization experts strongly advised against using the two treatments for patients with COVID-19 as part of recommendations published in the British Medical Journal.
GSK and partner Vir Biotechnology’s sotrovimab – which generated billions in sales and was one of the British drugmakers’ top sellers last year – was pulled from the US market by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April.
The World Health Organization’s understanding has been somewhat delayed since the United States began questioning the clinical effectiveness of sotrovimab against Omicron in early February, said Penny Ward, professor of pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London.
“Now that the WHO has issued this recommendation, it will be interesting to see how many other countries agree with it,” she said.
Regeneron and partner Roche’s antibody cocktail, cacirivimab-imdevimab, also generated billions in sales and was one of the top sellers for US drugmakers last year.
In January, the FDA revised its stance on the treatment, limiting its use to a small group of patients, citing strength in the Omicron variant.
Both treatments continue to be approved for use by the European Medicines Agency.
Another covid therapy that came out early in the pandemic was Gilead’s antiviral drug. The World Health Organization has expanded its conditional recommendation for the drug, advising that the drug may be used in patients with severe and non-severe Covid-19 who are at risk of hospitalization.
A handful of existing Covid treatments that remain effective in fighting the virus and others in development are also expected to benefit patients.
(This story has been corrected to clarify that WHO has expanded the conditional use of remdesivir to include severe covid patients in article 11)
(Reporting by Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)