Dexamethasone not a treatment for Coronavirus: WHO

Geneva: Dexamethasone is ‘not a treatment nor prevention for Covid-19 virus itself’ and should be administered only to severely ill patients under close clinical supervision, World Health Organisation (WHO) said.
‘It is not a treatment for the virus itself. It is not a prevention. In fact, steroids, particularly powerful steroids can be associated with viral replication. In other words, they can facilitate the division and replication of viruses in human bodies. It is important in this case that this drug is used for severely ill and critical patients who can benefit from this drug clearly,’ , Executive Director, Health Emergencies Programme, WHO Michael Ryan said.
Dexamethasone is one of the well known steroid used to treat inflammation. Researchers in United Kingdom, in a recovery trial, have found it to be useful in reducing mortality of severely ill Covid patients significantly though it is ineffective on patients with mild and very mild symptoms.
Explaining the role of dexamethasone in saving life of Covid-19 patients, Dr Ryan said, “It is very, very powerful inflammatory drug. It can rescue patients in very serious condition, where their lungs may be inflamed. Probably patients are able to continue to get oxygen into their blood from their lungs for a very critical period, by rapidly reducing inflammation at a critical period in the illness.”
Terming it as ‘one of the many breakthroughs we need’, Dr Ryan further said that it is still just preliminary data. It is from one study. This is not the time to rush to change the clinical practice. ‘People need training, we need to understand what doses are to be used, how patients are going to be clinically assessed,’ he added.
Welcoming the initial results, Director General, WHO Tedros Ghebreyesus said, ‘According to the early findings, for patients on oxygen alone the dexamethasone treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one fifth. For patients requiring a ventilator, mortality was reduced by about one third. However, dexamethasone was shown to not have a beneficial effect for those with milder disease, who did not need respiratory support.’
These drugs should only be used under close clinical supervision, the WHO chief stated. We need more therapeutics that can be used to tackle Covid-19, including those with milder symptoms, he added.