Development of Evidence-Based COVID-19 Management Guidelines for Local Context: The Methodological Challenges

Sarah Nadeem, Salima Saleem Aamdani, Bushra Ayub, Nashia Ali Rizvi, Fatima Safi Arslan, Russell Seth Martins, Maria Khan, Syed Faisal Mahmood

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Background. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has presented as a therapeutic challenge for clinicians worldwide due to its rapid spread along with evolving evidence and understanding of the disease. Internationally, recommendations to guide the management of COVID-19 have been created and updated continuously by the WHO and CDC, which have been locally adapted by different countries. Similarly, Pakistan's National Command Operation Center (NCOC), in its national COVID-19 management strategy, generated guidelines for national implementation. Keeping the guidelines updated has proved challenging globally and locally. Here, we present a summary of the process to assess the evidence, including a time-restricted systematic review based on NCOC Clinical Management Guidelines for COVID-19 Infections v4 published on 11th December 2020 version, correlating it with current recommendations and with input one of the guidelines authors, particularly noting the methodological challenges. Methods. We conducted a systematic review synthesizing global research on treatment options for COVID-19 hospitalized patients, limiting it to pharmacological interventions for hospitalized COVID-19 patients included in Pakistan's NCOC's national guidelines v4 published on 11th December 2020. Each treatment recommendation's strength and quality of evidence was assessed based on the grading of recommendations assessment, development, and evaluation (GRADE) methodology. These were then compared to the most current living WHO COVID-19 pharmacological treatment guidelines v7.1. One of the authors of the NCOC guidelines reviewed and commented on the findings as well. Results. We note that the data from our systematic review strongly supports corticosteroids use in treating severe and critically ill COVID-19 hospitalized patients correlating with WHO v7.1 guidelines 24 September 2021. However, evidence from our review and WHO v7.1 for the use of tocilizumab had some conflicting evidence, with data from our review until December 2020 supporting only a weak recommendation for its use, compared to the strong recommendation by the WHO for the use of tocilizumab in patients with severe or critical COVID-19 infection. Regarding the use of antibiotics and ivermectin use in treating COVID-19 hospitalized patients, data from our review and WHO v 7.1 recommend against their use. Conclusion. Research data about the efficacy and safety of pharmacological interventions to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19 are rapidly evolving, and based on it, the evidence for or against recommendations changes accordingly. Our study illustrates the challenges of keeping up with the evidence; the recommendations were based on studies up till December 2021, and we have compared our recommendations with the WHO v7.1, which showed some significant changes in the use of pharmacological treatment options.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4240378
JournalGlobal Health, Epidemiology and Genomics
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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