Health Minister Dr Culwick Togamana says the country has received approval for the use of Tocilizumab by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Tocilizumab is the second drug ever recommended by the WHO for COVID-19 treatment after recommending dexamethasone in September 2020.

It belongs to the class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), that are used in the treatment of various diseases including cancers.

Tocilizumab is given as an injection, and even though tocilizumab has been on the market since 2009 for treatment of rheumatologic diseases, access has remained a challenge.

Tocilizumab could become essential for treating people with critical and severe cases of COVID-19, and reduce the need for ventilators and medical oxygen which are not possible to administer in some locations.

The Health Minister says that a request has also been given to the government of India for donations of another WHO approved treatment, Molnupiravir.

This is the first oral (tablet) antiviral drug to be included in the treatment guidelines for COVID-19 by the WHO. Molnupiravir will be provided only to non-severe COVID-19 patients with the highest risk of hospitalization.

These are typically people who have not received a COVID-19 vaccination, older people, people with immunodeficiencies and people living with chronic diseases.