Two COVID antibody treatments no longer recommended by WHO

September 19, 2022
Two COVID antibody treatments no longer recommended by WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) “strongly advises against” the use of two COVID-19 antibody therapies developed during the early days of the pandemic, citing mounting evidence that the virus’ continued evolution has rendered the two therapies obsolete.

The two therapies, sotrovimab as well as casirivimab-imdevimab, are designed to work by binding to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to neutralise the virus’ ability to infect cells. Unfortunately, sotrovimab and casirivimab-imdevimab have both exhibited limited clinical activity against the latest variations of the virus, namely Omicron, according to recent lab tests.

Given the US has begun to question sotrovimab’s clinical effectiveness against Omicron as early as February, the WHO’s realisation is coming a little late, said Penny Ward, visiting professor in pharmaceutical medicine at King’s College London.

“Now WHO has issued this recommendation, it will be interesting to see how many other countries align with it,” she said.

GSK (GSK.L) and partner Vir Biotechnology’s (VIR.O) sotrovimab – which has generated billions in sales last year – was pulled off the US market by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April. Regeneron and partner Roche’s (ROG.S) antibody cocktail casirivimab-imdevimab has also generated billions in sales and was one of the US drugmaker’s top sellers last year.

The FDA has since revised its stance on the treatment, on the basis of its diminished potency against the Omicron variant.

Both therapies continue to be recommended for use by the European drugs regulator.

While these two therapies have fallen out of favour with the WHO, it has expanded conditional recommendation for the antiviral remdesivir, advising that it can be used in patients with severe COVID as well as non-severe COVID patients at the highest risk of hospitalisation.


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