On June 16, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a statement that welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom indicating Dexamethasone, an existing drug, can help save the lives of critically ill COVID-19 patients.
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patience with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said Dr Tendros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the WHO.
The ecstasy that met the announcement about the cheap and readily available Dexamethasone saw a considerable sharing of the information in online communities and on social media platforms.
One of such shared information read: “Hurray Dexamethasone is the new treatment for corona virus.” This created a wrong impression that the drug was for general treatment of COVID-19, with some people even recommending it in communities as a preventive drug for the disease.
- The benefits of the drug were observed only in critically ill COVID-19 patients, those who require ventilators or oxygen.
- Dexamethasone is not suitable for individuals with mild symptoms or asymptomatic conditions.
- In the trial for patients on ventilators, risk of death was cut from 40% to 28% whereas risk of death was cut from 25% to 20% for patients needing oxygen.
- Dexamethasone helps patients by preventing the massive inflammation in the lungs and hearts which causes severe respiratory problems in critically ill patients.
- Dexamethasone is common and is less costly to use to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. A 10-day treatment only costs $6 per patient per day.
- Dexamethasone should not be used for the prevention of COVID-19 because it can potentially suppress the immune system thereby weakening the body’s natural function to fight against COVID-19 and other infections.
- There is no need for individuals and families to buy or stock Dexamethasone for use unless prescribed by a qualified medical officer.
- When Dexamethasone is used persistently, it could lead to cataracts, muscle pain and bone loss.