The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said the fight against COVID-19 has received a much needed boost following “the recent finding that the steroid dexamethasone has life-saving potential for critically ill COVID-19 patients.”
Tedros Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, during a virtual briefing from Geneva, said the next challenge is to increase production “and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most.”
Ghebreyesus said although “the data on it is still preliminary,” the recent finding has given the world a much-needed reason to celebrate.
He said demand has already surged, following the UK trial results showing “dexamethasone’s clear benefit”.
He, however, cautioned that there is no evidence that dexamethasone works for patients who are only mildly affected, or as a preventative measure.
WHO said 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.
“Fortunately, this is an inexpensive medicine and there are many dexamethasone manufacturers worldwide, who we are confident can accelerate production,” he said.
Glimmer of hope
The drug received a nod from scientists and the international body after a UK-Government funded study showed that the low-cost steroid dexamethasone can save the life of one in eight severely ill patients on ventilators being treated for COVID-19 and of one in 25 patients who are receiving supplemental oxygen.