Jan 13 (Reuters) - A World Health Organization (WHO) panel
recommended use of two drugs by Eli Lilly, and
GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology for
COVID-19 patients, adding treatment options as the
fast-spreading Omicron variant renders many ineffective.
WHO data shows Omicron, which is evading protection provided
by many vaccines and therapies, has been identified in 149
countries. It is quickly replacing Delta as the dominant variant
in several nations, forcing governments and scientists to
bolster defences with testing, shots and therapies.
The panel on Thursday strongly recommended Lilly's
baricitinib, sold under brand name Olumiant, for patients with
severe COVID-19 in combination with corticosteroids, while
conditionally endorsed GSK-Vir's antibody therapy for non-severe
patients at the highest risk of hospitalization.
So far, GSK-Vir's monoclonal antibody therapy is the only
one that has shown effectiveness against Omicron in lab tests,
while similar treatments from Eli Lilly and Co and
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals offered lower protection in
The WHO experts noted that the effectiveness of monoclonal
antibody treatments -- lab-generated compounds that mimic the
body's natural defences -- against new variants such as Omicron
was still uncertain, and said the guidelines for this class of
medicine will be updated when additional data become available.
The WHO guidelines, published in the British Medical
Journal, also 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
MSF also said that governments must take steps to ensure
that patent monopolies do not stand in the way of access to the
(Reporting by Mrinalika Roy in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini