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Pricey COVID-19 antibody treatment gets WHO approval

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The World Health Organization is recommending a pricey antibody treatment for certain coronavirus patients in the latest update to its guidelines for treating people with COVID-19.

The new guidelines, published Friday in the journal BMJ, say the two antibodies – casirivimab and imdevimab – should be given to people infected with COVID-19 who are at highest risk of hospitalization and to people whose own immune systems have not mounted a response.

The U.N. health agency said the new advice was based on evidence from experimental trials, including a British-run study that is the world’s largest for testing potential COVID-19 treatments.

Read more: COVID-19: Nasal antibody spray could be ‘future’ of vaccines, experts says

In the U.S., the Regeneron treatment is mostly recommended for people with mild to moderate COVID-19, to prevent them from needing hospitalization.

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Activists worried that the cost of the treatment – more than $2,000 in the U.S. – means it will mostly be unavailable to people in poorer countries. Doctors Without Borders called for Regeneron to ensure the antibody drugs are accessible to needy patients and for the company to license any proprietary rights and share technological know-how for how to make them.

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