WHO approves the use of cheap steroid drug Dexamethasone to treat critically ill coronavirus patients
Last week, we told you about Dexamethasone after scientists in the U.K. found the cheap and widely used steroid to be the first proven life-saving drug in treatment of coronavirus for seriously ill patients. Oxford University researchers hailed the discovery as a “major breakthrough.” According to the result of their findings, the cheap and widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.
Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approves the use of Dexamethasone to treat critically ill coronavirus patients. In a virtual briefing from Geneva, WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said the next challenge was how to increase production and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most.
Ghebreyesus said although the data is still preliminary, the recent finding that dexamethasone has life-saving potential for critically ill COVID-19 patients gave much-needed reason to celebrate.
“Demand has already surged, following the UK trial results showing dexamethasone’s clear benefit. Fortunately, this is an inexpensive medicine and there are many dexamethasone manufacturers worldwide, who we are confident can accelerate production. Guided by solidarity, countries must work together to ensure supplies are prioritized for countries where there are large numbers of critically ill patients, and that supplies remain available to treat other diseases for which it is needed.
“Transparency and constant monitoring will be key to ensuring needs dictate supplies, rather than means. It is also important to check that suppliers can guarantee quality, as there is a high risk of substandard or falsified products entering the market.
“WHO emphasizes that dexamethasone should only be used for patients with severe or critical disease, under close clinical supervision. There is no evidence this drug works for patients with mild disease or as a preventative measure, and it could cause harm,” Ghebreyesus said.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid, a class of steroid hormone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug in 1958 when Merck & Company first manufactured the drug. Now, several manufacturers offer dexamethasone under various brand names and formulations, including Decadron, Ozurdex, Maxidex, and Baycadro.
The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, according Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial. Dexamethasone is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. The RECOVERY trial was first launched in April as part of a randomized clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for Covid-19, including low-dose dexamethasone and the malaria drug hydoxycholoroquine.