Geneva: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Sunday (local time) emphasised on a rapid increase in production of dexamethasone, a cheap steroid which after clinical trials has shown life-saving potential for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
According to researchers from Oxford University, a low-dose regimen of dexamethasone, which is typically used to treat certain forms of arthritis, severe allergies, asthma, and certain types of cancer, for 10 days was found to reduce the risk of death by a third among hospitalized patients requiring ventilation in the trial.
The preliminary trial was conducted over random 2,100 hospitalised COVID-19 patients, and about 4,300 hospitalized COVID-19 patients who were randomized to receive the usual standard of care at their hospitals.
Their findings are preliminary, still being compiled and have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal — but some not involved with the study called the results a breakthrough, as per CNN’s report.
Meanwhile, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 on Sunday said that although the data is 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”.
“The next challenge is to increase production and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most,” he said.
“WHO emphasises that dexamethasone should only be used for patients with severe or critical COVID-19 under close clinical supervision,” he informed people through a virtual conference further.
He said there is no evidence that this drug works for patients with mild disease or as a preventative measure, and it could cause harm. Tedros, however, ignored the fact that the side effects can include conditions such as upset stomach, headache, dizziness, insomnia and depression.
He said the demand for the steroid has already surged and as this is an inexpensive medicine and there are many dexamethasone manufacturers worldwide, “we are confident we can accelerate production”.
Guided by solidarity, he noted, countries must work together to ensure supplies are prioritised 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.