Drugs that block the Interleukin-6 receptors are now on the list of the recommended treatments for severe COVID-19, as per the World Health Organization.
COVID-19 vaccines are an essential tool in stopping the pandemic. While vaccination continues, immediate treatments are still necessary. This is why the World Health Organization seemingly remains keen on finding the safest and most effective solutions.
Amid the crisis, the health agency had only one class of drug in its recommendations for treating patients with severe COVID-19. This has since changed, particularly on Tuesday, when the WHO released new guidance about the matter.
Al Jazeera reported that the organization has now updated its list of drugs for severe COVID-19. Apart from corticosteroids, they have added interleukin-6 receptor blockers.
The “life-saving” interleukin-6 receptor blockers
As noted, individuals with severe cases of coronavirus suffer from an overreaction of the immune system. This is where the “life-saving” interleukin-6 receptor blockers come in as they “suppress” the overreaction.
As per the World Health Organization, they are the first drugs found to be effective against COVID-19 since September 2020. This is the time when they recommended the use of corticosteroids to treat severe coronavirus.
Some of the drugs mentioned are tocilizumab and sarilumab. The health agency, then, added that these medicines worked well during trials, especially alongside corticosteroids.
Data from the clinical trials
The latest recommendations from the World Health Organization follow the analysis of data from 27 clinical trials. These all considered over 10,000 COVID-19 patients and showed promising results.
Administering interleukin-6 blocking drugs to “severely or critically ill” COVID-19 patients reportedly “reduced the odds of death” by 13 percent. This is in comparison to the health care providers’ standard care.
In figures, this equates to 15 fewer deaths per 1000 severe COVID-19 patients. This also means that there will be 28 fewer deaths for every thousand critically ill individuals.
A word from the World Health Organization
Upon releasing the new guidance, the Director-General of the WHO shared some words about the latest recommendations. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that the interleukin-6 receptor blockers “offer hope” for individuals who are suffering severely and critically from COVID-19.
He emphasized, however, that these drugs remain “inaccessible and unaffordable” for the majority. The head consequently pointed out that the countries that need these drugs the most are those that have the least access due to the “inequitable distribution” of COVID-19 vaccines.
This is why he, alongside the World Health Organization, calls on manufacturers “to reduce prices and make supplies available,” especially to low and middle-income countries.
Images courtesy of World Health Organization (WHO)/YouTube