WHO endorses dexamethasone for treating chronic COVID-19 cases

The World Health Organisation (WHO), yesterday endorsed dexamethasone as ‘cure’ drug for saving lives of critically ill coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients. Dexamethasone is a breakthrough in the global race to discover a safe and effective drug for treatment and prevention of the disease.

The WHO welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom (UK) that showed dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can be life-saving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.

According to preliminary findings shared with WHO, 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. The benefit was only seen in patients seriously ill with COVID-19 and was not observed in patients with milder disease.

WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support.

“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 life-saving scientific breakthrough.”

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.

The global health body, in a statement, yesterday, said: “The researchers shared initial insights about the results of the trial with WHO, and we are looking forward to the full data analysis in the coming days. WHO will coordinate a meta-analysis to increase our overall understanding of this intervention. WHO clinical guidance will be updated to reflect how and when the drug should be used in COVID-19.”

The endorsement of dexamethasone came yesterday as President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria was ready to support any joint action plan at regional and global levels to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout.

He, therefore, urged the international community to support initiatives aimed at sharing knowledge from research and science to fight the disease.The president spoke at a virtual extraordinary China-Africa summit on solidarity against the COVID-19 organised by the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). “As we face a common pervasive and invisible enemy, it is important that we all remain united to save our shared humanity, because this virus knows no borders.”

‘’The fight against a global pandemic that continues to take so many lives, threaten livelihoods and challenging the very fabric of societies, requires enhanced cooperation and worldwide solidarity.

‘’I seize this opportunity to reiterate the need for this summit to put humanity at the centre of our vision for common prosperity.

‘’We must learn lessons and share knowledge from research, as we develop more creative, responsive and humane health systems, improve crisis management protocols and support each other in the battle against COVID-19,’’ he said.

The Nigerian leader also used the occasion to commend the Chinese government, the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and the WHO for their actions and measures to help developing and middle-income countries in Africa to tackle the pandemic. On the UN, the President praised the Secretary-General, for launching COVID-19 response and recovery fund for low and middle-income countries to tackle the health emergency, address social and economic consequences of the crisis and, strengthen the recovery efforts of most vulnerable countries.

The leadership of the global health body, WHO, was commended for its advice that enabled Nigeria take measures and enlighten its people on steps to avoid contracting and spreading the virus.

Similarly, President Buhari acknowledged that Chinese support had tremendously strengthened Nigeria’s effort in combating COVID-19, adding that President Xi’s strong support had further demonstrated the spirit of solidarity and enhanced the bond of partnership that existed among FOCAC member-states. President Buhari also provided an update on what his administration has done since the tragedy of the global pandemic hit the country.

‘’From the outset of the pandemic, we in Nigeria instituted strong surveillance and infection prevention as well as control measures and made provisions to strengthen our testing capacities.

‘’Several well-equipped treatment and isolation centers were set up across the country to increase bed capacity.

‘’In the spirit of international collaboration, medical experts in Nigeria participated by video link in learning and experience-sharing exercises organized by experts from various countries, including China’’.

Furthermore, the President said the Nigerian government had trained several thousands of healthcare workers, provided personal protective equipment to ensure the safety of frontline workers, and offered incentives for their motivation.

With regard to restrictions in movements occasioned by the need to contain the spread of the disease, Buhari said the Federal Government created the enabling environment for farmers to safely plant and harvest during this rainy season in order to ensure that food security was not compromised.

‘’In addition, we took steps for prompt transportation of agricultural products and food items from rural production areas to the consumers and to industrial processing zones.

‘’We have also developed practical policies to protect lives and livelihoods at the same time and to ensure our economy continues to function as we maintain an aggressive response to the pandemic,’’ he said.

The Chinese President said the summit was convened to discuss joint response to COVID-19 and renew fraternity with Africa. He said the world must mobilise resources and do whatever it takes to protect lives, adding that China would do whatever it could to support procurement of supplies, sending medical experts, and in other diverse ways.

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