The Centre on Saturday allowed the use of the drug dexamethasone to treat coronavirus patients with severe and moderate symptoms. This came days after scientists at the University of Oxford in United Kingdom discovered that the inexpensive and commonly available drug reduced mortality in patients with severe Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus.
The Union Health Ministry said that the use of dexamethasone has been clarified for patients in need of oxygen support and those who have excessive inflammatory response, according to its “Clinical Management Protocol: Covid-19”, a document published for health professionals as a reference for treating Covid-19 patients.
Dexamethasone is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other medical conditions. The researchers found that it is effective on patients whose immune system has gone into overdrive in response to the coronavirus infection. Such an overreaction by the immune system is known as a “cytokine storm” and can be deadly.
On Monday, the World Health Organization had called for a rapid increase in the production of the steroid, AFP reported.
“Although the data are still preliminary, the recent finding that the steroid dexamethasone has life-saving potential for critically ill Covid-19 patients gave us a much-needed reason to celebrate,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had told a virtual news conference in Geneva. “The next challenge is to increase production and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most.”
However, the global health body had emphasised that the drug should only be used for patients with severe or critical disease and under close clinical supervision. There is no evidence that the drug works for patients with mild disease or as a preventative measure, and it could cause harm, Tedros had said.
On June 13, India had revised the protocol for clinical management of Covid-19 to include use of antiviral drug remdesivir and off-label use of tocilizumab and convalescent plasma therapy on very specific groups of patients.
It had also added anosmia, the loss of sense of smell, and ageusia, an accompanying diminished sense of taste, as symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The other symptoms are fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, body ache, sore throat and diarrhoea.