18 August 2021 | Statements

Joint Statement from Unitaid and the World Health Organization (on behalf of the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator) regarding availability of tocilizumab

Geneva – 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.


Unitaid and the World Health Organization

About Unitaid
Unitaid is a global health agency engaged in finding innovative solutions to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases more quickly, cheaply, and effectively, in low- and middle-income countries. Its work includes funding initiatives to address major diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis, as well as HIV co-infections and co-morbidities such as cervical cancer and hepatitis C, and cross-cutting areas, such as fever management. Unitaid is now applying its expertise to address challenges in advancing new therapies and diagnostics for the COVID-19 pandemic, serving as a key member of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator. Unitaid is hosted by the World Health Organization.


About WHO

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States across six regions, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being.

For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedInTikTokPinterestSnapchatYouTube, and Twitch.


About the ACT-Accelerator

The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is a global coalition of organizations developing and deploying the new diagnostics, treatments and vaccines needed to end the acute phase of the pandemic. Pooling the expertise of its many partners, the ACT-Accelerator has quickly ushered in rapid, affordable tests and effective medicines, and established the COVAX facility for the equitable procurement and distribution of vaccines in low- and lower-middle-income countries.

Media contact

WHO Media Team: mediainquiries@who.int

Hervé Verhoosel, Head of Communications, Unitaid: verhooselh@unitaid.who.int

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