The World Health Organization -WHO, has prequalified the rheumatoid arthritis drug Tocilizumab for the treatment of severe Covid-19 patients.
The monoclonal antibody, used in anti-inflammatory drugs made by Swiss pharma giant Roche, has been shown to reduce the risk of death and also hospitalisation time in certain patients suffering from severe Covid.
Before tocilizumab, the global health body has prequalified three different compositions for the steroid dexamethasone for treating Covid, as well as Gilead’s antiviral remdesivir, although that prequalification has since been suspended.
Currently, tocilizumab is expensive and in short supply globally.
Therefore, the WHO and partners are discussing lower prices and improved access in low- and middle-income countries with the producer, Roche.
Tocilizumab has previously been authorised mostly for the treatment of arthritis in about 120 countries.
But during the pandemic, it has also been shown to suppress a dangerous ‘cytokine storm’, the over-reaction of the immune system to the coronavirus.
WHO pointed out that the patent for tocilizumab had expired for most uses.
However, the UN health agency has stressed that the prequalification was specifically for Roche products, “many generic companies are already producing tocilizumab, some of which have also applied for prequalification”.
“If they are found to comply with WHO standard… they can enter international markets.
”“In a sense, prequalification is also indirectly promoting quality local production, and ultimately greater supply and more competitive prices.
WHO okays arthritis drug for severe COVID-19 cases