UK trial results show that the steroid, Dexamethasone, has promising potential to treat critically sick COVID-19 patients.
Almost every day, the world reaches a new and grim record of coronavirus cases. Yesterday, there were more than 183,000 new cases of COVID, easily the most in a single day so far. More than 8.8 million cases have been reported to the WHO and more than 456,000 people have lost their lives.
As countries cautiously reopen their societies and economies, they are seeing a rapid increase in cases —even in those that have successfully contained the transmission of the virus in the past few months, like South Korea.
“It’s not a choice between lives and livelihoods: Countries can do both. We urge countries to be careful and creative in finding solutions so that people stay safe while getting on with their lives,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Abhanom Ghebreyesus said.
He advised that all countries double down on the fundamental public health measures that have been proven to work, including finding and testing suspected cases; isolating and caring for the sick; contact tracing; wearing masks; cleaning hands; quarantining, and protecting health workers at the same time. He emphasized that we can collectively prevent the spread of the disease if each and every individual takes these preventative and cautionary measures.
There has been no evidence that indicates that Dexamethasone works as preventative medicine against COVID-19, and WHO emphasized that it must only be used for patients in severe conditions, under close clinic supervision. Given these early results, it could cause harm. Fortunately, Dexamethasone is an inexpensive medicine and there are many manufacturers worldwide.
However, energized by these promising results, Dr. Tedros said that “the next challenge is to increase production and rapidly, and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide.” He is confident that the WHO can accelerate the production of Dexamethasone guided by the WHO Solidarity Trials.
Following the UK trial results, the steroid, Dexamethasone, has been found to have “life saving potential” for critically ill COVID-19 patients.
He highlighted, “countries must work together to ensure supplies are prioritized for countries where there are large numbers of critically ill patients, and that supplies remain available to treat other diseases for which it is needed. Transparency and constant monitoring will be key to ensuring that needs dictate supplies, rather than means.”
He also emphasized that it’s important to check that suppliers can guarantee high quality. Given the high demand for potential COVID-19 drugs, there is a higher incentive and higher risk of “fortified products” in the market.
WHO is also continuing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and laboratory diagnostics to countries through an online platform. In the COVID-19 supply portal, countries that need supplies to enter requests for these PPEs and coronavirus tests.
Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus: The world is learning the hard way that health is not a luxury item
“So far, 48 countries have made requests for supplies, with a value of 92 million US dollars, who is currently in the process of shipping more than 140 million items of personal protective equipment to 100 certified countries. 14,000 oxygen concentrators, and millions of tests,” Dr. Tedros said.
“The world is learning the hard way that health is not a luxury item. It's the cornerstone of security, stability, and prosperity. That's why it's essential that countries not only respond urgently to the pandemic. But also that they invest in strong health systems domestically. And in global health security. Last year, world leaders came together at the United Nations General Assembly in New York to adopt a landmark political Declaration on Universal Health Coverage. Now more than ever, all countries must make universal health coverage, a priority. It's not a question of whether countries can afford to do this. It's a question of whether they can afford not to,” concluded Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.
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