"Paying a high price for remdesivir without good evidence of mortality benefit is a gamble", Robin Ferner, a physician and professor of clinical pharmacology at the University of Birmingham, said in a feature accompanying the BMJ article.
The recommendation is a blow to the drug, one of the first thought to offer a meaningful benefit in treatment of coronavirus patients after a study showed it reduced their recovery time. "Especially given the costs and resource implications associated. the panel felt the responsibility should be on demonstrating evidence of efficacy, which is not established by the now available data", it added.
Remdesivir, developed by United States pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences for the treatment of Ebola, was one of several drugs that attracted global attention as doctors looked for more effective ways to treat the novel coronavirus, which emerged in China late past year.
The WHO's Guideline Development Group (GDG) panel said its recommendation was based on an evidence review that included data from four worldwide randomized trials involving more than 7,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19.
A study made public in mid-October and carried out in more than thirty countries with the support of the World Health Organization already concluded that remdesivir had not proved any benefit in terms of reduction of mortality.
Within the US, a federal guidelines panel and some leading medical groups have not endorsed two other therapies the Food and Drug Administration authorized for emergency use - Eli Lilly's experimental antibody drug and convalescent plasma, the blood of COVID-19 survivors.
Rubber stoppers are placed onto filled vials of the remdesivir at a Gilead manufacturing site in the US in March 2020
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan on Friday said that antiviral drug Remdesivir, often used in the treatment of coronavirus infection, has been dropped from the prequalification list - an official list of medicines - because of negative recommendations.
The antiviral showed early promise in pre-clinical Covid-19 trials and has been used around the world to treat people with severe disease, including in the UK.
Remdesivir gained even more prominence in October when it was given to President Donald Trump as part of his treatment after he contracted the virus. "It is not surprising, therefore, that the World Health Organization guideline committee does not support its use, underscoring the need for better treatments that more meaningfully impact patient outcomes".
The recommendation, which is not binding, is part of its so-called "living guidelines" project, created to offer ongoing guidance for doctors.
The recommendation is based on new evidence review comparing the effects of several drug treatments for Covid-19. That approval followed results published in the New England Journal of Medicine from Gilead's Phase 3 ACTT-1 trial, which demonstrated faster recovery times than previously reported for the treatment of adults hospitalized with mild-moderate or severe coronavirus cases.
The European drugs regulator has requested full data from the WHO-led Solidarity trial into the drug and will assess the evidence, together with other available data, to see if any changes are needed to its market authorization, he said.