WHO hails 'breakthrough' for Covid-19 treatment

Thursday June 18 2020


The steroid dexamethasone has been found to save the lives of one third of the most serious Covid-19 cases, according to trial results hailed on June 16, 2020 as a "major breakthrough" in the fight against the disease. PHOTO | BERTRAND GUAY | AFP 

By The EastAfrican

The World Health Organization (WHO) has embraced the results of a steroid drug hailed as 'breakthrough' for seriously ill coronavirus patients.

This is after trial results announced on Tuesday, showed that a cheap and widely-used steroid called dexamethasone has become the first drug shown to be able to save lives among Covid-19 patients, in what scientists said is a "major breakthrough" in the ongoing pandemic.

The preliminary results from the United Kingdom (UK), which have not been peer-reviewed, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the disease, the researchers who led the trials said.

Dexamethasone (also known as dexamed), is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s. It is usually used to reduce inflammation in treating diseases such as arthritis.

Researchers say it reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill Covid-19 patients admitted to hospitals. It has been listed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations, and is currently off-patent and affordably available in most countries.

“Dexamethasone is an essential medicine listed in Kenya under the Kenya Essential Medicines List 2019 and has been used previously to manage various cases. It is also used for supportive management of Covid-19,” Director-General of Health Patrick Amoth said on his weekly Twitter chats.


For patients on ventilators, the treatment has shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth, according to preliminary findings shared with WHO.