South Africa’s Minister of Health, Dr Zweli Mkhize, has announced that dexamethasone will be used to treat critically ill Covid-19 patients.
Dexamethasone It is a steroid that has been used to treat inflammations in various conditions including arthritis among others since the 1960s. “This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” added Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
It is currently being manufactured in South Africa by pharmaceutical giants Aspen and costs between R149 and R179. It can be taken orally or injected.
“One of the companies manufactures the oral equivalent and supplies it all over the world and so we are able to negotiate the security of our own supply right here at home. In fact, to have a South African enterprise be a manufacturer and supplier of a critical medicine, especially one that will prove to be lifesaving in the current global context, is a real departure from the norm and so South Africans can take pride in being one of the countries that will provide a solution to a global crisis,” said Mkhize.
“We are so pleased that we have the means to deliver quality, evidence-based health care to those who need it the most. We are immediately able to offer all patients who need intravenous dexamethasone. We have checked our stock and we currently have around 300 000 ampoules in the country” confirmed Mkhize.
President Cyril Ramaphosa noted that dexamethasone was a much-needed breakthrough in the fight against the novel coronavirus and has been recommended for patients on ventilators and on oxygen supply, would improve patients’ chances of survival against the virus.
“In the midst of this life-destroying pandemic, we are greatly encouraged by the news this week of a breakthrough in the treatment of Covid-19. A study by the University of Oxford in Britain has found that the drug, dexamethasone… has reduced death amongst patients on ventilation by a third,” said Ramaphosa.
“The department of health and the ministerial advisory committee has recommended that this drug can be considered for use on patients on ventilators and those who are on oxygen supply,” said Ramaphosa.
The committee’s remarks came after a UK-based trial that was started in March showed that the drug reduced Covid-19 related mortality by one-third. The trial showed that the drug, when used for 10 ten days on patients needing ventilators or assistance with oxygen, can save at least one in eight patients.
“In the interim, we believe that intravenous dexamethasone 6mg daily or an equivalent oral corticosteroid for 10 days may be considered in patients with a confirmed diagnosis of Covid-19 who are being mechanically ventilated,” the advisory committee said.