Pakistan will continue using dexamethasone to treat critical novel coronavirus patients, the country’s top health official said on Wednesday as its ally fatalities hit another record high.
Researchers in the UK announced a day earlier that dexamethasone — a cheap and widely available drug — cuts the risk of death in severely ill coronavirus patients, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has hailed it as a “lifesaving breakthrough.”
Pakistan to use dexamethasone to treat coronavirus
Zafar Mirza, Pakistan’s state minister for health, said the country had ample supply of the drug and may include it in the standard treatment for COVID-19 patients on ventilators or in need of oxygen.
In a series of tweets, he said the WHO had responded positively to the new research and an expert committee in Pakistan will now consider making it part of the treatment plan.
“It is an old & cheap anti-inflammatory medicine (steroid) & we have multiple producers in Pakistan,” he said.
Mirza clarified that the medicine is only to be used for critically ill COVID-19 patients who are on ventilators or need oxygen.
“The medicine MUST NOT be used by mild to moderate patients; self-medication is strictly prohibited and can be dangerous as the medicine has many side-effects,” he warned.
PLEASE NOTE: It is ONLY FOR critically ill COVID-19 patients ie those on oxygen and ventilators; the medicine MUST NOT be used by mild to moderate patients; self-medication is strictly prohibited and can be dangerous as the medicine has many side-effects.
— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) June 17, 2020
The minister’s statement came after Pakistan reported its highest daily fatality count of 136, which raised the death toll to 2,975.
Another 5,839 confirmed infections took the country’s total cases to 154,760, including 58,437 recoveries.
Dexamethasone shows promising results in treating coronavirus
On Tuesday, the WHO said dexamethasone had reduced mortality by about one third for patients on ventilators, and by about one fifth for patients requiring only oxygen, referring to preliminary findings of research conducted at Oxford University.
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough.”
Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered the drug, dexamethasone, to more than 2,000 severely ill COVID-19 patients.
Among those who could only breathe with the help of a ventilator, it reduced deaths by 35 percent.
“Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide,” said Peter Horby, professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at Oxford.
Dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers.
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, according to the global heath body.
Russian drug ‘Avifavir’ in competition?
Russian experts hope their new drug, Avifavir, will do the trick and treat coronavirus.
This month, 60,000 courses of the drug will be sent to hospitals across Russia. If necessary, production can be increased to two million per year. The first deliveries have already arrived in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other regions, including Tatarstan and Kirov.
The Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the Russian pharmaceutical company ‘KhimRar’ developed Avifavir, which is free to Russians under the country’s national health insurance scheme. The international chemical name of the medication is Favipiravir. It was invented in Japan and ‘KhimRar’ synthesized the new formula.
We foresee a high demand for Avifavir in Russia (and) we also received requests for deliveries of Avifavir from more than ten countries,” the Director of the RDIF, Kirill Dmitriev, explained. “The first results of clinical trials make us believe this drug is one of the most promising in the world.”
The fund’s website indicates that the medicine “demonstrated high efficiency” during clinical trials. For example, in the first four days of treatment, 65 percent of the 40 patients who took Avifavir tested negative for Covid-19 and, by the tenth day, the number of patients posting negative results increased to 90 percent.
Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk
What are your views on this? Share with us in the comments bar below.