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Health Minister Zweli Mkhize says the ground-breaking research findings in the recovery trial in the UK are significant for South Africa as the locally manufactured drug is immediately available for very ill Covid-19 patients as the country prepares for the upcoming surge in infections

“On 16 June, I conveyed our excitement, as a department, around the breakthrough research of the RECOVERY trial from Oxford University in Britain,” Mkhize said.

“We are immediately able to offer all patients that need intravenous dexamethasone – we have checked our stock and we currently have around 300 000 ampules in the country,” the minister said.

Dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory used for treatment of asthma, allergic reactions, auto-immune disease and brain swelling (oedema), among others, is a registered medicine in South Africa, with which healthcare workers are familiar, the minister said.

“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.

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“This is a significant breakthrough in evidence-based management of Covid-19. The study results are compelling because it was a randomised study that was able to recruit large numbers of participants (6 425).”

However, the study showed no benefit for those patients who did not require oxygen supplementation.

“There are three major suppliers of intravenous dexamethasone 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,” Mkhize said.

“To have a South African enterprise be a manufacturer and supplier of a critical medicine, especially one that will prove to be lifesaving 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,” the minister said.

“Our Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19 issued an advisory to recommend the use of dexamethasone (or an equivalent steroid like hydrocortisone or prednisolone) for all Covid-19 patients on ventilators or requiring non-invasive supplementary oxygen.”

Medicine is inexpensive, easy to transport & administer

However, he added that they had issued the advisory while awaiting the full study for closer assessment. “We therefore will be moving ahead to issue guidelines for the use of dexamethasone in all our facilities for desperately ill Covid-19 patients.

“The strategy is easy to implement as the medicine is inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to administer and will not require too much additional training.

“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 said.

Author: ANA Newswire