There appears to be a major breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic as the UK health authorities have unveiled dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available low-dose steroid drug has shown efficacy for preventing critically ill COVID-19 patients from dying.The drug is part of the world’s biggest existing medicine under clinical trial for the treatment and possible cure for the deadly viral disease.The research, led by a team from Oxford University scientists, has shown that dexamethasone cuts the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators, and by a fifth, for those on oxygen.The Chief Investigator of the Research, Prof. Peter Horby, said: “Had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved. This could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of COVID-19 patients.”The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said about 19 out of 20 patients with COVID-19 recover without being admitted to hospital.Of those who are admitted, most also recover, but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation.These are the high-risk patients whom dexamethasone appears to help.Horby said the drug has already been used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, adding that it appears that it helps stop some of the damages that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off COVID-19.”The body’s over-reaction is called cytokine storm and it can be deadly.”Two thousand hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug.”For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40 per cent to 28 per cent. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25 per cent to 20 per cent.”This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” he added.Lead Researcher, Prof. Martin Landray, said the findings suggested that one life could be saved for every eight patients treated on ventilators.”For those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug.”There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available,” he added.Reacting to the research finding, the President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Mr. Sam Ohuabunwa, said it meant good news in the battle against COVID-19 in the country as dexamethasone is available in Nigeria and other African countries.He also said dexamethasone is a steroid, which can be used on a short-term basis in the treatment of inflammation, adding that it must be used on prescription.He added that if used on a long-term basis, it could become injurious.”If this drug has now been found to be useful in the treatment of serious cases of COVID-19, it will be nice because right now, there has not been a major breakthrough. It is available in Nigeria and it is a very old drug. But what the researchers in the UK are doing is trying to re-propose it.”From my review, the report is not as spectacular as they are saying because a drug that can save one out of eight persons on ventilators and one out of 20 persons on oxygen is not so spectacular. I know one life is important, but I think the point they are making is that the body goes through inflammatory responses when one has COVID-19. So, it works more like a supportive therapy, not like a magical cure,” he said.
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