Germany defies WHO’s call against Remdesivir as COVID therapy

Remdesivir is currently the only approved treatment to combat COVID-19. It was also recently used to treat US President Donald Trump. [Shutterstock/ Tobias Arhelger]

The German government has decided not to follow a recent recommendation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) against the use of Remdesivir, an antiviral drug shown to be effective in treating symptoms of COVID-19, government sources in Berlin told EURACTIV Germany.

On 20 November, the WHO issued a recommendation against the use of Remdesivir in hospitalised patients, regardless of the severity of the disease, as there is currently no evidence that Remdesivir improves survival rates and other outcomes in these patients.

The European Commission has already signed a deal with pharmaceutical company Gilead to buy 500,000 treatment courses of Remdesivir. Remdesivir is currently the only approved treatment to combat COVID-19 and was recently used to treat US President Donald Trump.

However, Berlin does not seem convinced about the WHO’s recommendation. Sources from the German health ministry told that the WHO study “has been carefully reviewed by the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA)”.

“Both institutions conclude that Remdesivir remains approved,” the sources said, adding, however, that “only for certain patients at a specific time of the disease does the drug have an alleviating effect”.

“On July 3, 2020, the European Commission granted a conditional approval for Remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19 for adults and adolescents aged 12 years or older and weighing at least 40 kg, with pneumonia requiring supplemental oxygenation,” the same sources added.

Speaking at a press conference last month, Germany’s minister of health, Jens Spahn, also noted that it is better to administrate Remdesivir only at certain stages of the infection, rather than at every stage.

Same position by Canada

Similarly, Professor Uwe Janssens from St. Antonius Hospital in Eschweiler, said the solidarity trial – an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, launched by the WHO – has not been peer-reviewed, but it has been put on a server, which “gives us the opportunity to take a critical look at it.”

Meanwhile, Health Canada, the department of Canada’s federal health policy, made a similar decision after it reviewed the WHO considerations and recommendations.

“We are not making any immediate changes to the status of Remdesivir in Canada at this time,” Health Canada said in a statement.

“Remdesivir will continue to be available as a treatment option for those with severe COVID-19 disease. Our position is the same as those of other major international regulators, such as the European Medicines Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration,” it said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

Subscribe to our newsletters