GENEVA, Switzerland – World Health Organization (WHO) and Unitaid are concerned by Roche’s statement [yesterday], warning of a global shortage of tocilizumab (brand name Actemra/RoActemra), an IL6 inhibitor WHO recommended in June for use as a treatment for severe COVID-19 cases.
Tocilizumab can play a key role in decreasing mortality and reducing need for invasive mechanical ventilation among severely ill patients, when delivered alongside oxygen and corticosteroids.
While we welcome and acknowledge that Roche has announced measures to address the shortage, we call on the company to ensure equitable allocation of current stocks of this medicine for all countries, including low- and middle-income countries.
We also strongly encourage Roche to facilitate technology transfer and knowledge and data sharing to broaden access to this important treatment.
The ACT-A partnership Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator partners are working with Roche to set up channels for distribution of tocilizumab in places where it is not yet in use, as part of their effort to support roll-out of effective new therapeutic products for COVID-19.
In addition, WHO has issued a call for Expression of Interest to its Prequalification programme to expand the number of quality-assured manufacturers of the drug and thus to increase global supplies.
WHO and Unitaid remain committed to ensuring equitable access to medicines for treating patients with severe COVID-19 as a vital element of the effort to fight the pandemic everywhere and save lives.