Even though it seems like the coronavirus pandemic has been going on for years, it has only been a few months since COVID-19 started spreading across the planet. Medical researchers are constantly looking for new ways to treat the disease, and their most recent discovery is dexamethasone. Here is everything you need to know.
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The effectiveness of dexamethasone against the coronavirus was first reported last week by the Oxford University scientists in the UK. According to their report, the clinical trial of dexamethasone has shown that it’s likely the first drug that has been proven to save the lives of COVID-19 patients.
Dexamethasone is by no means a brand new drug. In fact, it has been actively used in medicine since the 1950s and is essentially a corticosteroid whose most common use is against inflammations of different nature. Dexamethasone is not an exotic drug: it is available in numerous countries around the world and is surprisingly affordable.
The results of the clinical trial have shown dexamethasone to prevent the deaths of COVID-19 patients with the most severe cases of the disease. According to the results obtained by the Oxford University researchers, one-third of the coronavirus patients on ventilators and one-fifth of patients on oxygen support have avoided death despite the severity of their condition.
Dexamethasone is not the first medical breakthrough in the battle against the coronavirus. Earlier this year, the drug called remdesivir was approved for use in COVID-19 patients thanks to its alleged ability to shorten the course of the disease and help patients be discharged from hospitals earlier. However, remdesivir is far from an affordable drug, is not as widely available as dexamethasone, and does not actually prevent coronavirus-related deaths.
The first country to officially approve the use of dexamethasone in COVID-19 cases and to include the drug in the standard treatment procedure was, unsurprisingly, the United Kingdom, where coronavirus patients are already receiving dexamethasone as part of their treatment course. Other countries are currently looking into including dexamethasone into their standard COVID-19 treatment protocols and will likely follow suit when more data is presented.
The reason who dexamethasone has proven to be effective against the coronavirus is likely its ability to modulate the human immune system. For a substantial part of coronavirus patients, the virus itself is not as dangerous as its damaging effect on the immune system, when white blood cells begin attacking healthy cells, making the patient more susceptible to coronavirus complications. By normalizing the person’s immune response, dexamethasone is thought to prevent severe complications and deaths from COVID-19.
At the same time, WHO is not as fast to recommend dexamethasone for wider use in the treatment of coronavirus and says that even though the results of the Oxford University study were impressive and promising, we shouldn’t forget that it was just one study. WHO is currently researching various aspects of using dexamethasone against COVID-19 and promises to release its latest recommendations to countries later.