Dexamethasone – The New WHO-approved COVID Buster

Dexamethasone - The New WHO-approved COVID Buster

Recent UK trials have touted an anti-inflammatory drug called dexamethasone as a ground-breaking treatment for serious COVID-19 cases. Reports also state that it could reduce death rates to up to one-third.

Crux of the Matter

Wait, Is It Dexa-metha-sone?
Coronavirus disease triggers inflammation in the patient’s body as he/she tries to fight it with the help of their immune system. At times, the immune system goes into overdrive and causes a fatal reaction. Consequently, the response designed to attack infection ends up attacking the body’s own cells. Dexamethasone is a steroid that is designed to act like a hormone in the body and thus calms this effect.

Does It Work The Same For All?
Dexamethasone is a medicine that acts as a steroid that reduces inflammation, by mirroring anti-inflammatory hormones produced by the patient’s body. Thus the drug does not work on people with comparatively milder symptoms, as suppressing their immune system at an early stage of the infection spread, would not be helpful. It’s considered most useful for the worst COVID-hit hospitalized patients, who are on ventilators.

The Trial And Its Results
The Recovery (Randomised Evaluation of Covid-19 therapy) trial was conducted by the University of Oxford. 2,100 patients received a 6mg daily dose of dexamethasone in the test run for 10 days. Their progress was equated with a random sample of about 4,300 patients, who claimed to receive no additional treatment. The results clearly stated how Dexamethasone could prevent one in three deaths for patients on mechanical ventilation and one in five, for the ones on just oxygen supply.

Why Is It The Chosen One?
First made in 1957, Dexamethasone is a low-cost drug as it already exists and is thus in good supply across the world. Additionally, the UK government has stockpiled enough drug supply to treat 200,000 people. The drug is estimated to cost from £5.40 a day per patient, with a regular COVID-19 treatment known to be of 10 days.

What Is Its Reception Worldwide?
WHO has given the thumbs up of approval for the trial results. They further added how the next move on their part would be creating more therapies for COVID-19 patients with milder symptoms. The drug is manufactured mainly in South Africa, where more than 5K people have died of COVID-19. Its government has started issuing medical orders for its real-time implementation in their hospitals.

But Are There Any Side Effects?
Common side effects include anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, and fluid retention while rarer side effects could be eye disorders, blurred vision, and hemorrhage. However, coronavirus patients shall need a limited dosage of the drug, which would limit the side effects as well.

Difference Between Vaccine And Drug
A vaccine acts as a prevention against any bacteria or virus. It is like an agent that protects your body from becoming sick, by injection of weakened antibodies. This helps in building long-term immunity. A drug is a substance that works as a medicine to treat a person infected by the disease and acts as an immediate treatment. To underline the difference, it can be said that Vaccine builds immunity and drug treats symptoms of a disease.

Drugs Tried Out For COVID-19

  • Antiprotozoal Chloroquine drug used to treat malaria is approved for emergency use by the US FDA.
  • Anti-viral Favilavir was the first approved COVID-19 drug in China while Anti-viral FabiFlu was the first oral drug approved in India.
  • Remdesivir, an antiviral drug used to treat Ebola, is approved in India to treat mild cases. Tocilizumab, a drug used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, is now being used in Mumbai Hospitals.
  • Covifor is a drug available in injectable form.

  • Dexamethasone was first made in 1957 by Philip Showalter Hench and was approved for medical use in 1961. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines. In 2017, it was the 321st most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than one million prescriptions.
  • The WHO Model List of Essential Medicines (EML), contains the medications considered to be most effective and safe to meet the most important needs in a health system. The first list was published in 1977 and included 208 medications.
  • Dexamethasone and most glucocorticoids are banned by sporting bodies including the World Anti-Doping Agency. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA; French: Agence mondiale antidopage, AMA) is a foundation initiated by the International Olympic Committee based in Canada to promote, coordinate and monitor the fight against drugs in sports.