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Dexamethasone: Know about the World’s first life saving COVID-19 drug

The whole world is suffering from COVID-19 pandemic, several trials are going on for the treatment of coronavirus where Dexamethasone can be life-saver and can prevent ventilation stage in COVID-19 cases. Let us read in detail about Dexamethasone, how it works, and about the study related to Dexamethasone.
Jun 19, 2020 14:49 IST
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What is Dexamethasone?
What is Dexamethasone?

Researchers from the RECOVERY trial reported that Dexamethasone can help in reducing the death rates in certain COVID-19 patients and so Dexamethasone currently became a subject of discussion. Any hope related to the treatment or medicine for COVID-19 generates a ray of hope.

Dexamethasone the cheap and widely-used steroid has become the first drug that can save lives of COVID-19 patients and according to the scientists, it is a "major breakthrough" in the coronavirus pandemic.

Let us tell you that the observations were part of the world's biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus.

What is dexamethasone?

It is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce the inflammation in a range of conditions like inflammatory disorders and certain cancers. It has been listed in the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations. We can say that it relieves inflammation like swelling, heat, redness and pain. It is also used to treat certain forms of arthritis, skin, blood, kidney, eye, thyroid and intestinal disorders e.g. colitis, severe allergies and asthma. Certain types of cancer can also be treated with the help of this drug.

Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid which is similar to a natural hormone produced by your adrenal glands. For better understanding, it is basically an anti-inflammatory drug which is commonly used to treat conditions in which the body's immune system does not function properly and causes inflammation and damage tissue.

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Improve outcomes for COVID-19: What newly trial says about Dexamethasone?

RECOVERY clinical trial of Oxford University has found that low-dose of dexamethasone can increase the chance of survival in patients with COVID-19 who require a ventilator or respiratory support.

RECOVERY means Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy. It aims to identify treatments that may be beneficial for people hospitalised with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

About the trial:

The RECOVERY trial was established in March 2020 as a randomised clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19. Over 11,500 patients are enrolled from over 175 NHS hospitals within the UK.

Recruitment to the dexamethasone arm was halted on 8 June since, within the view of the Trial Steering Committee; sufficient patients had been enrolled to determine whether or not the drug had a meaningful benefit.

2104 total patients were randomised to receive dexamethasone 6 mg once per day either by mouth or via intravenous injection for 10 days. And these patients were compared with 4321 patients randomised to usual care alone.

It was seen that among the patients who were provided with usual care alone, mortality 28-day was highest in among those patients who required ventilation (41%), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25%) and lowest among those who didn’t require any respiratory intervention (13%).

Dexamethasone reduced the deaths by 1/3rd in the ventilated patients and by 1/5th in other patients receiving oxygen only. Who doesn’t require respiratory support; there was no benefit among them.

According to these results, it is said that 1 death would be prevented by the treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.

Might be the data of the result is small but if it is viewed overall then it becomes huge. According to the researchers, if the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved.

If we analyse the info of some countries affected by COVID-19 pandemic around 4.5 lakh people died within the whole world and we can save lives of around 50 to 55k people if this drug had been given from the starting.

The drug is beneficial for developing countries

It is said that for developing countries it could be of huge benefit with high numbers of COVID-19 patients too. In India, the drug which is used to fight life-threatening sepsis and severe infections have annual sales of around Rs 100 crore.

The largest manufacturer is Ahmedabad-based Zydus Cadila. According to the Zydus group chairman Pankaj Patel, "there are enough supplies in India. It is been used for over four decades in several indications and is very affordable". The price of the drug is regulated under the Drug Price Control Order and according to Drug (Prices Control) Order, 2013 cost is around Rs 5-6 per injection. It is also produced by small scale manufacturers.

The drug comes in the form of tablets and in the form of injection also. According to the researchers, the treatment for high-risk COVID-19 patients is up to 10 days. In intensive care, the drug is provided intravenously and in tablet form for less seriously ill patients.

However, it does not mean that anyone can take it at home itself in case of minor symptoms. A lead researcher Martin Landray warned that people should not go out and buy drug to take at home.

Note: Dexamethasone does not appear to help COVID-19 patients with milder symptoms and who did not need help with their breathing.

Even according to WHO, it is important to use Dexamethasone only for severe coronavirus cases.

As we know that the only drug that proven to benefit COVID-19 patients is remdesivir. It also has been used for Ebola. It has been shown to reduce the duration of COVID-19 symptoms from 15 days to 11. But the evidence was not enough strong to show whether it reduced mortality.

The UK Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said: ‘This is tremendous news today from the Recovery trial showing that dexamethasone is the first drug to reduce mortality from COVID-19. It is particularly exciting as this is an inexpensive widely available medicine.’

Therefore, Dexamethasone became the World’s first life-saving COVID-19 drug.  

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