WHO to set guidelines on COVID-19 antiviral pills soon

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured outside a building of the WHO in Geneva
A logo is pictured outside a building of the World Health Organization (WHO) during an executive board meeting on update on the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 6, 2021.
REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

World Health Organization (WHO) officials said on Friday they were hoping to convene a meeting soon to set guidelines on the use of COVID-19 antiviral pills, saying they offered “very attractive” new prospects for clinical care.

Britain became the first country to approve one of the potentially game-changing pills earlier this month. Janet Diaz, the WHO’s top official for clinical care responses, said that a meeting of its guidelines development group would consider the question of COVID pills in a forthcoming meeting in three weeks.

Another WHO official Mike Ryan said preliminary findings on the pills was “very, very welcome”, adding that a “careful process” was not required before the therapies should be expanded more broadly.

“Clearly, having a second line approach of being able to treat those who do get infected is a very attractive and being able to save lives in that manner is very attractive,” he said.

Last week Pfizer Inc’s (PFE.N) said its experimental antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 cut by 89% the chance of hospitalization or death for adults at risk of severe disease.

At the same briefing, WHO principal legal officer Steven Solomon said that talks on an international treaty to boost pandemic preparedness were advancing ahead of a major meeting of the body later this month.

“There is good reason to believe they (WHO members) will come to a successful conclusion,” he said.

Discussions are also advancing on a potential emergency use listing for Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, the WHO’s Mariangela Simao said, adding that further inspections were required. “The process is moving again which is very good news,” she said.