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One vial of the drug Remdesivir lies on a table. Photo: Ulrich Perrey/AFP via Getty Images

A World Health Organization panel of experts on Thursday recommended against the use of Gilead Sciences' remdesivir as a COVID-19 treatment.

Why it matters: The recommendation breaks with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which approved the antiviral drug as a COVID-19 treatment in October.

What they're saying: The WHO panel "concluded that remdesivir has no meaningful effect on mortality or on other important outcomes for patients, such as the need for mechanical ventilation or time to clinical improvement," the experts said in a news release, per the New York Times.

  • The experts, who published their guidance in the the journal the BMJ, said they "concluded that the evidence did not prove that remdesivir has no benefit; rather, there is no evidence based on currently available data that it does improve patient-important outcomes."
  • "Especially given the costs and resource implications associated with remdesivir, but consistent with the approach that should be taken with any new drug, the panel felt the responsibility should be on demonstrating evidence of efficacy, which is not established by the currently available data."
  • The panel reviewed data from four randomized trials.

Gilead Sciences said in a statement: “We are disappointed the WHO guidelines appear to ignore this evidence at a time when cases are dramatically increasing around the world and doctors are relying on Veklury as the first and only approved antiviral treatment for patients with Covid-19 in approximately 50 countries," per the WSJ. Veklury is the trade name for remdesivir.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.