WHO says dexamethasone could help save critically ill COVID-19 patients

Taking dexamethasone inappropriately could worsen situation in a COVID-19 infection

Dexamethasone reuters Representational image of dexamethasone | Reuters

WHO Chief Scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan said dexamethasone could be a lifesaving drug for patients who are critically ill with the coronavirus. However, she also said that taking Dexamethasone, which is a corticosteroid, inappropriately could worsen the situation in a COVID-19 infection. Swaminathan added that it was important that the drug was prescribed by a doctor only for patients who fulfil specific criteria.

Clinical trials in Oxford University in the UK showed that the drug was shown to reduce mortality for patients on ventilator by one-third and for patients who were on only oxygen support, mortality was cut by one-fifth. “This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general.

Dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers. The drug has also been used to cure conditions like arthritis, blood disorders, lupus, allergic reactions and skin conditions.

WHO will coordinate a meta-analysis to increase overall understanding of this intervention.

Swaminathan added that treatment guidelines are constantly updated based on new evidence.

Until now, there has been no vaccine for the coronavirus. The virus that originated in China in December has claimed over 440,000 lives globally.