dexamethasone, commonly used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma has been approved for use on critically-ill COVID-19 patients by the World Health Organisation, WHO.
This comes after team of medical researchers from Oxford University had said the drug can speed up the recovery of high-risk COVID-19 patients.
The Director-General of WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus, while speaking on the use of dexamethasone, he called for increased production and distribution but emphasised that there is no evidence that the drug works for patients with mild symptoms.
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.
The next challenge is to increase production and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most.
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 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.
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 emphasises that dexamethasone should only be used for patients with the 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