COVID-19: WHO approves new medicine for Omicron variant treatment

The World Health Organisation has approved a new antiviral medicine, molnupiravir, for the treatment of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

This is the first oral antiviral drug to be included in the treatment guidelines for COVID-19.

Aside from its new approval, the global health body also recommended that casirivimab-imdevimab should not be used for patients infected with the Omicron variant.

The new treatment guidelines were contained in the WHO’s ninth update on COVID-19 therapeutics made available on its website on Thursday.

The health body also urged stakeholders and health workers to ensure active monitoring for drug safety, along with other strategies to mitigate potential harms as the approval was based on conditional recommendation.

The update read, “Because of these concerns and data gaps, molnupiravir should be provided only to non-severe COVID-19 patients with the highest risk of hospitalization. These are typically people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, older people, people with immunodeficiencies, and people living with chronic diseases.

“Children, and pregnant and breastfeeding women should not be given the drug. People who take molnupiravir should have a contraceptive plan, and health systems should ensure access to pregnancy testing and contraceptives at the point of care.

“Under the care of a health care provider, molnupiravir, an oral tablet, is given as four tablets (total 800 mg) twice daily for five days; within 5 days of symptom onset. Used as early as possible after infection, it can help prevent hospitalization.

“Today’s recommendation is based on new data from six randomized controlled trials involving 4796 patients. This is the largest dataset on this drug so far.”

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