The medication was one of the drugs used to treat US President Donald Trump’s coronavirus infection, and had been shown in previous studies to have cut time to recovery. It is authorised or approved for use as a Covid-19 treatment in more than 50 countries.
Gilead has questioned the Solidarity Trial’s results.
The WHO’s Guideline Development Group (GDG) panel said its recommendation was based on an evidence review that included data from four international randomised trials involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalised with Covid-19.
After reviewing the evidence, the panel said, it concluded that remdesivir, which has to be given intravenously and is therefore costly and complex to administer, has no meaningful effect on death rates or other important outcomes for patients.
“Especially given the costs and resource implications associated with remdesivir …the panel felt the responsibility should be on demonstrating evidence of efficacy, which is not established by the currently available data,” it added.
The latest WHO advice comes after one of the world’s top bodies representing intensive care doctors said the antiviral should not be used for Covid-19 patients in critical care wards.
The WHO’s recommendation, which is not binding, is part of its so-called “living guidelines” project, designed to offer guidance for doctors to help them make clinical decisions about patients in fast-moving situations such as the Covid-19 pandemic. The guidelines can be updated and reviewed as new evidence and information emerges.
The panel said, however, that it supported continued enrolment into clinical trials evaluating remdesivir in patients with Covid-19, which it said should “provide higher certainty of evidence for specific groups of patients”.
The recommendation may raise further questions about whether the European Union will need the 500,000 courses of the antiviral worth 1 billion euros it ordered last month.