5 facts about Covid-19 breakthrough drug dexamethasone

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5 facts about Covid-19 breakthrough drug dexamethasone

Dexamethasone is made in SA, relatively affordable, and could save many lives

The cheap and widely available drug Dexamethasone has shown tremendous results in initial trials for the treatment of serious Covid-19 cases. Here are five facts about the drug and how it will be used.  

Dexamethasone is a common and widely used steroidal medication. In a press release on 17 June, Health Minister Dr Zwelini Mkhize explained that “it is used in allergic reactions, asthma and other conditions where the inflammatory component of the disease needs to be controlled”. 

While the drug is not a cure, it could have a huge impact on survival rates. According to the World Health Organisation, “for patients on ventilators, the treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth”. 

Dexamethasone has had its place on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977, which means it is off-patent and affordably available in most countries. In South Africa, the cost to receive the Dexamethasone treatment is R149 per injection. 

The drug will be used to treat those who are on oxygen or ventilators. “There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support,” the Western Cape Government explained. 

Dexamethasone in South Africa is manufactured by Aspen. Its CEO Stephen Saad confirmed to Business Insider SA that, depending on where and when South Africa gets its Covid-19 surges, “there should be sufficient supplies to meet local demand”.


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