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Dexamethasone – At Last?

By Shlomo Maital

   Two hours ago, the New York Times printed this news story, by Benjamin Mueller:

     LONDON — “Scientists at the University of Oxford said on Tuesday that they had identified what they called the first drug proven to reduce coronavirus-related deaths, after a 6,000-patient trial in Britain showed that a low-cost steroid prevented the deaths of some hospitalized patients. The steroid, dexamethasone, a well-known anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to help patients with severe cases of the virus: It reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving standard oxygen treatment, the scientists said. They found no benefit from the drug for patients who did not need respiratory support.”

     How does it work? Apparently, as a steroid drug, it prevents the body’s immune system from over-reacting and making the patient even more ill. “Experts said it appeared that the steroid tamped down the overactive inflammatory response to the virus in some patients, known as a cytokine storm, rather than inhibiting the virus itself.”

     Dexamethasone was first made in 1957 and was approved for medical use in 1961.   So it is nearly 60 years old!   Dexamethasone is cheap! In the United States, a month of medication typically costs less than US$25.     In India, a course of treatment costs about 50 cents US.   This is because the drug is now available as a generic.   More than a million prescriptions a year are given in the US.

Blog entries written by Prof. Shlomo Maital

Shlomo Maital