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WHO warns breakthrough COVID drug should be saved for serious cases
June 18, 2020
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The breakthrough drug was revealed to have positive effects on COVID-19 patients on Tuesday. In a study carried out by British researchers, the drug was found to cut death rates by nearly a third of the most severe cases of coronavirus, but the full data has not yet been released.
The WHO issued a statement on Tuesday that said “the researchers shared initial insights about the results of the trial with WHO, and we are looking forward to the full data analysis in the coming days”.
They also will be looking at other clinical trial data on dexamethasone to further understand the drug’s effects on COVID-19.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus even said research was at last providing “green shoots of hope” in treating the virus.
But on a briefing on Wednesday, the organisation’s officials reaffirmed that the drug’s use should only be limited to the most severe cases, and not be used for prevention.
Tedros said at the briefing: “Dexamethasone was shown to not have a beneficial effect for those with milder disease, who did not need respiratory support.
“We need more therapeutics that can be used to tackle COVID-19, including those with milder symptoms.”
Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of the WHO’s emergencies programme, added: “It’s exceptionally important that this drug is used under medical supervision.
“This is not for mild cases.
“This is not for prophylaxis.”
Ryan continued to say that while the steroid showed promising signs, it could in some cases make the infections worse by helping the virus replicate.
The drug does not work by blocking the virus, but rather by reducing inflammation in and around the lungs.
Patients with very severe cases of coronavirus struggle as the inflammation in the lungs makes it difficult for oxygen to get into the blood.
One of the leading causes of death in coronavirus patients is from blood clots and hypoxia, which can occur despite treatment from ventilators.
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He concluded that dexamethasone “is not a treatment for the virus itself”.
The drug should instead be seen as one part of a combination approach to treating COVID-19, along with oxygen, ventilation and antiviral drugs.
The results of the British trial have led to world governments rushing to stockpile the drug, despite medical officials claiming there is no shortage.
Some doctors remain cautious of the steroids possible side-effects, and want to see more data before full adopting the drug in the official treatment of COVID-19.
It follows previous “wonder drug”, hydroxychloroquine, being dispensed by most world leaders in the treatment of the virus.
The WHO said on Wednesday that testing of hydroxychloroquine in its large multi-country trial of treatments for COVID-19 patients had been halted after research showed no benefit.
The US Food and Drug Administration withdrew emergency authorisation for hydroxychloroquine after studies showed it did not help patients recover from coronavirus.