The Netherlands continues to use ‘corona drug’ remdesivir despite WHO | NOW


Dutch doctors are allowed to continue to use the virus-inhibiting agent remdesivir in the treatment of corona patients, although the WHO does not advise it. This advises the Antibiotic Policy Working Group (SWAB).

A week ago, the World Health Organization advised countries to stop using the ‘corona drug’ remdesivir in corona patients in hospitals. The agent, according to WHO, would have “no significant effect” on the health of patients regardless of their condition.

SWAB, a foundation that deals with the quality of antibiotic use in the Netherlands, and an expert group of the Federation of Medical Specialists (FMS) see no reason in the WHO statement to adjust their advice. They had previously found that administering remdesivir is not a life-saver or can prevent patients from needing to go to intensive care, but that “significantly faster recovery has been observed.”

SWAB and the FMS, in a response published on Thursday, called the WHO’s advice a “weak, conditional recommendation” that came about “from a global perspective, taking into account, among other things, proportional representation from different types of countries”. The foundation and the federation have drawn a different conclusion based on the same data.

Remdesivir only used in nursing wards

In principle, the drug is only used in the Netherlands in corona patients with breathing problems who are in a nursing ward of a hospital. COVID-19 patients in intensive care are not given the drug.

“Whether and how much the hospital stay and recovery period in the current Dutch situation can still be relevantly shortened by administering remdesivir, and whether that is cost-effective, is still unknown”, according to the foundation. “As long as this insight is lacking, the FMS-SWAB group does not recommend against the use of remdesivir in the above patient group, but considers it an option.”

The WHO’s advice was published in the Friday last week British Medical Journal. It recommends that “remdesivir should not be administered in addition to normal care for the treatment of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19, regardless of the severity of the disease”.

The European Commission has purchased hundreds of thousands of doses of the drug from the manufacturer, Gilead, in recent months. It was originally developed as a medicine against the Ebola virus.

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