WHO lauds steroid trial results on Covid-19, to co-ordinate meta-analysis

Our Bureau Mumbai | Updated on June 17, 2020

This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with Covid-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support, says WHO chief

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom that shows dexamethasone, a corticosteroid, can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with Covid-19.

The multilateral agency further said that it will “coordinate a meta-analysis to increase our overall understanding of this intervention.” The WHO clinical guidance will be updated to reflect how and when the drug should be used in Covid-19, it said. The agency already conducts the solidarity trial on probable Covid drugs and vaccines.

According to preliminary findings shared with the WHO, dexamethasone was seen to reduce mortality by about one third for patients on ventilators, and for patients requiring only oxygen, and the 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.

“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with Covid-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, congratulating the UK government, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients who were involved with the trial.

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 isavailable at affordable prices in most countries. “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,” the WHO said.

The development builds off the WHO Research & Development Blueprint meeting, which took place in Geneva in mid-February to accelerate health technologies for Covid-19, where further research into the use of steroids was highlighted as a priority.

The findings reinforce the importance of large randomized control trials that produce actionable evidence. WHO will continue to work together with all partners to further develop lifesaving therapeutics and vaccines to tackle Covid-19, including under the umbrella of the Access to Covid-19 Tools Accelerator, the WHO said.

Published on June 17, 2020

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