SA in ‘favourable’ position regarding supply of Covid-19 ‘miracle’ drug dexamethasone

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said SA has plenty supply of dexamethasone, which has proven to be crucial in treating the coronavirus.
Health minister Zweli Mkhize said SA has plenty supply of dexamethasone, which has proven to be crucial in treating the coronavirus. Image: 123RF/Jarun Ontakrai
Health minister Zweli Mkhize on Friday said SA is in a favourable position when it comes to supply of dexamethasone.  

A recent study by Oxford University in the UK showed that dexamethasone was an acceptable drug in treating the coronavirus. The drug is also manufactured in SA.

“Since this announcement [of the drug being favourable in treating Covid-19], we have looked into our own context and found that we are indeed in a favourable position,” Mkhize said in a statement.

“Our health care workers are very familiar with dexamethasone, having used it for decades as a registered medicine in SA. We are immediately able to offer all patients that need intravenous dexamethasone. We have checked our stock and we currently have around 300,000 ampoules in the country,” he added.

SA currently has three major suppliers of the drug in the country.

“One of the companies manufactures the oral equivalent and supplies it all over the world and so we are able to negotiate the security of our own supply right here at home. In fact, to have a SA enterprise be a manufacturer and supplier of a critical medicine, especially one that will prove to be life-saving in the current global context, is a real departure from the norm and so South Africans can take pride in being one of the countries that will provide a solution to a global crisis,” Mkhize added.

Dexamethasone was shown to be effective for patients who are currently on ventilators or on oxygen as a result of coronavirus-related complications. It is usually used for treating patients with asthma, allergic reactions, autoimmune disease and brain swelling.

In patients that have the coronavirus, “dexamethasone was found to reduce mortality by one third in patients who required ventilatory support and by one fifth in patients who required non-invasive supplementary oxygen”.

Mkhize said there was no other medicine that had shown this level of efficiency to date.

However, the drug was not beneficial for Covid-19 positive patients who were not in need of oxygen or ventilators. It was also not recommended for asymptomatic patients.

In patients that have the coronavirus, “dexamethasone was found to reduce mortality by one third in patients who required ventilatory support and by one fifth in patients who required non-invasive supplementary oxygen”.

Mkhize said they would be now be distributing the drug across all facilities that are earmarked for the treatment of coronavirus-positive patients.

“We are so pleased that we have the wherewithal to deliver quality, evidence-based health care to those who need it the most. As a nation, we see value in participating in clinical trials that comply with the highest ethical standards. This ensures that we contribute to the body of knowledge and secure our access to therapeutics when they are ready for clinical application,” Mkhize added.

BY NALEDI SHANGE

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