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WHO approves steroid dexamethasone to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients




TEDROS Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has disclosed that dexamethasone, a type of corticosteroid medication, has life-saving potential for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Ghebreyesus  described the development as a breakthrough and a much needed reason to celebrate.

He shared the new development during a virtual briefing on COVID-19 from Geneva, Switzerland adding that the most immediate challenge is getting the medication equitably distributed worldwide.

“Although the data are still preliminary, the recent finding that the steroid dexamethasone has life-saving potential for critically ill COVID-19 patients gave us a much-needed reason to celebrate,” Ghebreyesus said.

According to him, there’s been a surge in demand, following the United Kingdom (UK) trial results showing dexamethasone’s clear benefit.

He, however,  emphasized that dexamethasone should only be used for patients with severe or critical disease, submitting that there is no evidence that the drug works for patients with mild disease.

“WHO emphasizes that dexamethasone should only be used for patients with severe or critical disease, under close clinical supervision.

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“There is no evidence this drug works for patients with mild disease or as a preventative measure, and it could cause harm,” he said.

Calling for action, Ghebreyesus advised that 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.

He added that suppliers should guarantee quality, as there is a high risk of substandard or falsified products entering the market.

Dexamethasone is a type of corticosteroid medication.

It is used in the treatment of many conditions, including rheumatic problems, a number of skin diseases, severe allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, croup, brain swelling, eye pain following eye surgery, and along with antibiotics in tuberculosis.

BBC reports that in a trial, led by a team from Oxford University, about 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not.

It was found that for patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40 percent to 28 percent and for patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25 percent to 20 percent.

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“This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” Peter Horby,  a chief investigator said.

Currently, there are over 9.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases globally, with over 474,000 deaths, according to Worldometer.

Meanwhile, the WHO has said that the lack of global solidarity and leadership is worsening the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, adding that the politicisation has exacerbated the fight against the deadly virus.



Author profile

Seun Durojaiye is a journalist with International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR).

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