Now that dexamethasone has been found to be the first lifesaving drug against COVID-19, people are starting to self-medicate.
Find out how dexamethasone helps against COVID-19, and why you should NOT use dexamethasone to self-medicate against COVID-19!
Dexamethasone : What Is It?
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid that was first produced in 1957, and approved for medical use in 1961.
Used to reduce inflammation in a wide number of conditions – from skin diseases and allergies to certain cancers – it is no longer patented, and is therefore, cheaply and widely available.
Dexamethasone : First COVID-19 Treatment To Save Lives
On 16 June 2020, Professor Peter Hornby reported that preliminary trial results of the Oxford University RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) study showed that :
Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result.
The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients.
Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.
Here is a short summary of their initial insights from the study :
A total of 2104 patients were randomised to receive dexamethasone 6 mg once per day (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for ten days and were compared with 4321 patients randomised to usual care alone.
Among the patients who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41%), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25%), and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13%).
Dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients (rate ratio 0.65 [95% confidence interval 0.48 to 0.88]; p=0.0003) and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only (0.80 [0.67 to 0.96]; p=0.0021).
There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support (1.22 [0.86 to 1.75; p=0.14).
Based on these results, 1 death would be prevented by treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone.
Dexamethasone : Do NOT Self-Medicate Against COVID-19!
Now, as important as these findings are, it is extremely important that we should NOT use dexamethasone to self-medicate against COVID-19. Here are the reasons why…
Reason #1 : These Are Preliminary Findings
We cannot stress this enough – these are preliminary findings from the Oxford University RECOVERY study. A full data analysis is underway, which should reveal more.
WHO will also coordinate a meta-analysis to understand how and when dexamethasone should be used to treat COVID-19, and update their clinical guidance later.
Reason #2 : Dexamethasone Only Helps Patients On Respiratory Support
The Oxford University RECOVERY press statement explicitly stated that dexamethasone only helped patients requiring respiratory support, reducing deaths for :
- patients on ventilators : by one-third (33%)
- patients receiving oxygen : by one-fifth (20%)
There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support.
If you have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms – not requiring respiratory assistance – then dexamethasone cannot help improve your outcome.
Reason #3 : Dexamethasone Does Not Destroy SARS-CoV-2
Dexamethasone has no effect on the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19). It can neither destroy it, or stop it from replicating.
Rather, it appears to prevent or reduce damage from an immune system overreaction – called a cytokine storm – that can occur in severe COVID-19 cases.
Reason #4 : Dexamethasone Suppresses The Immune System
Dexamethasone is an immunosuppressant – about 30 times more potent than cortisol. It will suppress your body’s immune system, and make you more susceptible to infections.
So taking dexamethasone to prevent COVID-19 will make you more likely to get infected by SARS-CoV-2, or other microbes!
Reason #5 : Dexamethasone Has Dangerous Side Effects
Dexamethasone should not be taken unless it is necessary, because it has many dangerous side effects, like :
- Eyes : Cataracts, glaucoma
- Endocrine : Hyperglycemia, hirsutism, Cushing syndrome
- Cardiovascular : Congestive heart failure, cardiac arrhythmias
- Skin : Acne, striae, bruising, discolouration, thinning, impaired wound healing
- Other : Weight gain, reduced fertility, fluid retention
So please DO NOT self-medicate using dexamethasone to “prevent” or “cure” COVID-19. Dexamethasone cannot cure or prevent COVID-19!
COVID-19 : How To Keep Safe!
Here are a few simple steps to stay safe from COVID-19 :
- Stay at home or shelter in place
- Keep your hands clean with soap or hand sanitiser
- Keep your home, office, vehicle, etc. clean
- If you must go out, maintain a social distance of 6 feet (2 metres)
- Wear a surgical mask and make sure you put it on and remove it properly!
- Wash your food with water (and soap) after purchase and before preparation
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