10 November 2023
Geneva, Switzerland

WHO has updated its guidelines for COVID-19 therapeutics, with revised recommendations for patients with non-severe COVID-19. This is the 13th update to these guidelines. Updated risk rates for hospital admission in patients with non-severe COVID-19

The guidance includes updated risk rates for hospital admission in patients with non-severe COVID-19.

The current COVID-19 virus variants tend to cause less severe disease while immunity levels are higher due to vaccination, leading to lower risks of severe illness and death for most patients.

This update includes new baseline risk estimates for hospital admission in patients with non-severe COVID-19. The new ‘moderate risk’ category now includes people previously considered to be high risk including older people and/or those with chronic conditions, disabilities, and comorbidities of chronic disease. The updated risk estimates will assist healthcare professionals to identify individuals at high, moderate or low risk of hospital admission, and to tailor treatment according to WHO guidelines:
  • High: People who are immunosuppressed remain at higher risk if they contract COVID-19, with an estimated hospitalization rate of 6%.
  • Moderate: People over 65 years old, those with conditions like obesity, diabetes and/or chronic conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney or liver disease, cancer, people with disabilities and those with comorbidities of chronic disease are at moderate risk, with an estimated hospitalization rate of 3%.
  • Low: Those who are not in the high or moderate risk categories are at low risk of hospitalization (0.5%). Most people are low risk.
Review of COVID-19 treatments for people with non-severe COVID-19

WHO continues to strongly recommend nirmatrelvir-ritonavir (also known by its brand name ‘Paxlovid’) for people at high-risk and moderate risk of hospitalization. The recommendations state that nirmatrelvir-ritonavir is considered the best choice for most eligible patients, given its therapeutic benefits, ease of administration and fewer concerns about potential harms. Nirmatrelvir-ritonavir was first recommended by WHO in April 2022.

If nirmatrelvir-ritonavir is not available to patients at high-risk of hospitalization, WHO suggests the use of molnupiravir or remdesivir instead.

WHO suggests against the use of molnupiravir and remdesivir for patients at moderate risk, judging the potential harms to outweigh the limited benefits in patients at moderate risk of hospital admission.

For people at low risk of hospitalization, WHO does not recommend any antiviral therapy. Symptoms like fever and pain can continue to be managed with analgesics like paracetamol.

WHO also recommends against use of a new antiviral (VV116) for patients, except in clinical trials.

The update also includes a strong recommendation against the use of ivermectin for patients with non-severe COVID-19. WHO continues to advise that in patients with severe or critical COVID-19, ivermectin should only be used in clinical trials.