WHO ‘strongly advises against’ use of two COVID treatments

A picture taken on May 8, 2021 shows a sign of the World Health Organization at the entrance of their headquarters in Geneva amid the COVID-19 outbreak. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

LONDON / OTTAWA / PARIS  – Two COVID-19 antibody therapies are no longer recommended by the World Health Organization, on the basis that Omicron and the variant's latest offshoots have likely rendered them obsolete.

The two therapies – which are designed to work by binding to the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 to neutralize the virus' ability to infect cells – were some of the first medicines developed early in the pandemic.

The virus has since evolved, and mounting evidence from lab tests suggests the two therapies – sotrovimab as well as casirivimab-imdevimab – have limited clinical activity against the latest iterations of the virus

The virus has since evolved, and mounting evidence from lab tests suggests the two therapies – sotrovimab as well as casirivimab-imdevimab – have limited clinical activity against the latest iterations of the virus. As a result, they have also fallen out of favor with the US health regulator.

On Thursday, WHO experts said they strongly advised against the use of the two therapies in patients with COVID-19, reversing previous conditional recommendations endorsing them, as part of a suite of recommendations published in the British Medical Journal.

GSK and partner Vir Biotechnology's sotrovimab – which has generated billions in sales and became one of the British drugmaker's top sellers last year – was pulled off the US market by the US Food and Drug Administration in April. 

Given the United States had begun to question sotrovimab's clinical effectiveness against Omicron as early as February, the WHO's realization 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.

Another COVID therapy that emerged early in pandemic was Gilead's antiviral remdesivir. The WHO expanded its conditional recommendation for the drug, advising that it can be used in patients with severe COVID as well as non-severe COVID patients at the highest risk of hospitalization.

There are a handful of existing COVID therapeutics that remain useful in the fight against the virus, and others in development that are expected to also benefit patients.


Canada confirmed 16,501 new COVID-19 cases for the week ending Sept 10, the Public Health Agency of Canada said on Friday.

The number of total COVID-19 cases and deaths in Canada reached 4,216,141 and 44,740 respectively, according to the weekly update issued by the health agency.

The daily positive rate during the week averaged at 10.1 percent, and daily tests per 100,000 people were 62.

Meanwhile, the Canada Border Services Agency has been gradually resuming border services at airports still affected by the temporary measures put in place as a result of COVID-19.

The CBSA announced on Friday the resumption of border services at 55 small airports across the country.

The government undertook a gradual easing of temporary measures to manage the pandemic, Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino said.

READ MORE: Canada confirms over 25,000 new COVID cases in one week

A woman walks past a pharmacy advertising in its window, "Here vaccine test COVID without appointment" on Aug 1, 2022 in Nîmes in the south of France. (PASCAL GUYOT / AFP)


France's national health body warned on Friday of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the country, and urged people to continue to get vaccinated to protect themselves against the virus.

The Sante Publique France body said that during the week of Sept 5-Sept 11, there had been 186 confirmed COVID cases for every 100,000 people in France – a figure up 12 percent versus the previous week – representing an average of around 18,000 new cases per day.

New infections have been steadily rising since 10 days and the seven-day moving average of daily new cases reached an almost five-weeks high of 24,042 on Thursday.

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