June 23, 2020

COVID-19: WHO approves use of dexamethasone for critically-ill patients

By Chioma Obinna

The World Health Organisation, WHO has approved the use of dexamethasone for critically-ill COVID-19 patients.

A team of medical researchers from Oxford University had said dexamethasone, commonly used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and asthma can speed up the recovery of high-risk COVID-19 patients.

The Lead Researcher, Martin Landry, had also said the drug costs £5 per patient were available worldwide.

READ ALSO: WHO echoes severe impact of COVID-19 on African women

Speaking on the use of dexamethasone, WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus,  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,” he said.

“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.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Nigerian study finds Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine effective as Prophylaxis

“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.”

It could be recalled that before the approval of the drug, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu had said the use of the drug would be evaluated before it would be allowed for the treatment of COVID-19 in Nigeria.