The WHO panel of experts also looked at two other drugs for severe and critical COVID-19: ruxolitinib and tofacitinib, and gave conditional recommendation against their use
Nigeria on Friday heaved a little sigh of relief from the rampaging coronavirus pandemic as the country recorded no fresh fatality from the virus and just 352 new infections.
Since the announcement of the fourth wave of the pandemic by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the country had consistently recorded higher figure of infections and increased fatalities.
This is as the World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved two new drugs – baricitinib and sotrovimab – to treat the pandemic.
The new drugs are in addition to those earlier approved among other measures introduced to curb the virulence of the disease.
The WHO disclosed this in a statement published on its website on Friday, noting that the extent to which these medicines will save lives depends on their availability and affordability.
Nigeria’s COVID-19 Update
The latest statistics released by the NCDC early Saturday morning revealed that the fresh cases were reported across eight states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The new cases have raised Nigeria’s infection toll to 250,361, while the fatality toll still stands at 3,092.
The data also shows a significant decrease in the number of active cases from over 25,000 cases as of January 13, 2022, to 23, 768 cases on Friday.
The disease centre also noted that a total of 223,495 people have been successfully treated and discharged in Nigeria.
The breakdown of the NCDC data revealed that Rivers State topped the infection chart with 119 cases, and is closely followed by Lagos State, the epicentre of the disease, with 106 cases.
While Gombe State ranked third on the log with 50 cases, the FCT followed with 36 cases.
Next is Delta and Kaduna states with 16 and 14 cases respectively, while Oyo and Taraba States reported five cases each.
The recommended drugs
According to WHO, the recommended drugs are based on evidence from seven trials involving more than 4,000 patients with non-severe, severe, and critical COVID-19 infections.
It said the first drug, simply identified as baricitinib, is strongly recommended for patients with severe or critical COVID-19 and taken with corticosteroids.
The global body said the baricitinib is part of a class of drugs called Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors that suppress the overstimulation of the immune system.
“Baricitinib is an oral drug, used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. It provides an alternative to other arthritis drugs called Interleukin-6 receptor blockers, recommended by WHO in July 2021,” the statement reads in part.
It added that the second drug, sotrovimab, has been conditionally recommended for treating mild or moderate COVID-19 in patients who are at the high risk of hospitalisation.
WHO specified that the patients who can take sotrovimab include older people, immunocompromised, those having underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, and those unvaccinated.
The statement further reads: “Sotrovimab is an alternative to casirivimab-imdevimab, a monoclonal antibody cocktail recommended by WHO in September 2021
“Studies are ongoing on the effectiveness of monoclonal antibodies against Omicron but early laboratory studies show that sotrovimab retains its activity.”
While the two newly recommended drugs, baricitinib and sotrovimab, have been invited for WHO Prequalification, the WHO also kicked against the use of two drugs: ruxolitinib and tofacitinib for severe and critical COVID-19,
“The panel of experts developing the guidelines also looked at two other drugs for severe and critical COVID-19: ruxolitinib and tofacitinib. Given their uncertain effects, WHO made a conditional recommendation against their use.
“The two newly recommended drugs – baricitinib and sotrovimab – have been invited for WHO Prequalification, which assesses the quality, efficacy and safety of priority health products to increase access in lower income countries,” it added.