What is dexamethasone and is Trump being treated for coronavirus with steroid?

What is dexamethasone and is Trump being treated for coronavirus with steroid?

October 5, 2020

DEXAMETHASONE was the first treatment shown to improve survival against Covid-19 — and was hailed the "biggest breakthrough yet".

Potentially life-saving drug dexamethasone – that costs as little as £5 – can only be given to patients with severe coronavirus, with US President Donald Trump among those to receive the steroid.

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What is dexamethasone?

Dexamethasone is a corticosteriod drug, typically used to treat rheumatic problems, several skin diseases and some respiratory infections like asthmaand chronic obstructive lung disease.

Dexamethasone can also treat croup, which is a respiratory infection usually caused by a virus that often affects kids.

It was created in 1957, before being approved for medical use in 1961 – and is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines.

It not an expensive drug, costing around £5 in the UK, and is widely available across the world.

What is dexamethasone used for?

Dexamethasone relieves inflammation in various parts of the body.

It is used help reduce swelling (oedema), which can be caused by tumours of the spine and brain, and to treat eye inflammation.

Dexamethasone is also used to treat many different conditions such as allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or breathing disorders.

What are the side effects of dexamethasone?

Long-term use of dexamethasone can result in acute eye problems such as cataracts or glaucoma. 

Around 30 per cent of people who use the drug experience a variety of other side effects.

Common or very-common side effects include insomnia, fluid retention, heartburn, headache, fatigue and muscle weakness.

The drug can also cause anxiety, cognitive impairment, abnormal behaviour and in extreme cases, episodes of psychosis.

The uncommon side-effects of the anti-inflammatory dug include increased appetite, eye disorders, heart failure, seizure, tuberculosis reactivation and vertigo.

Does it treat coronavirus?

Dexamethasone has been hailed the "biggest breakthrough yet" and is the first treatment shown to improve survival against Covid-19.

Scientists at Oxford University believe the commonly available steroid can reduce the risk of dying by a third for the sickest of patients.

They revealed that their findings are the "biggest breakthrough" so far in the battle against coronavirus.

However, they claimed that if it had been available at the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 British deaths could have been prevented.

During trials, the drug cut the risk of death by 35 per cent for patients on ventilators, and for those on oxygen support, it reduced mortality by 20 per cent.

Meanwhile, Petery Horby of the university's Nuffield Department of Medicine and key investigator in the trial revealed it is "an extremely welcome result".

 

The emerging infectious diseases professor said: "This is the only drug that has so far shown to reduce mortality, and it reduces it significantly. It is a major breakthrough, I think."

Where can I get dexamethasone?

Dexmathasone is available on prescription and will be rolled out to all high risk COVID-19 cases in the NHS with immediate effect.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said: "Because we spotted the early signs of the potential of dexamethasone, we've been stockpiling it since March.

"So we now have 200,000 courses ready to go and we're working with the NHS so that the NHS-standard treatment for Covid-19 will include dexamethasone this afternoon."

The UK government has 200,000 courses of the drug in its stockpile and says the NHS will make dexamethasone available to patients.

But people should not go out and buy it to take at home without the recommendation of medical professionals.

Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus, such as those who do not need help with their breathing.

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Is Donald Trump being treated with dexamethasone?

On Sunday, October 4, it was confirmed Donald Trump was being treated with dexamethasone.

Dr Brian Garibaldi, from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Trump has been receiving treatment since Friday, said Trump was given the drug in response to "transient low oxygen levels".

He said: "He received his first dose of that yesterday and our plan is to continue that for the time being.”

Trump is also being given an experimental treatment, Regeneron's REGN-COV2, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and aspirin, his doctors have said.

Trump released a four-minute video on Saturday, October 4, in which he said the "real test" of his condition will come over the next few days.

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