The Union Health Ministry has included the use of Dexamethasone as an alternative to Methylprednisolone for managing moderate to severe COVID-19 cases. In a fresh clinical management protocol for managing COVID-19 cases issued on Saturday, the ministry stated: “The ministry has updated clinical management protocol for managing COVID-19 cases. Now, it recommends using Dexamethasone as an alternative choice to Methylprednisolone for managing moderate to severe cases of COVID-19. The change has been made after considering the latest available evidence and expert consultation.”

According to medical experts, Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid drug used in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects. The move comes when, the Dexamethasone drug has been tested in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 in the RECOVERY clinical trial and was found to have benefits for critically ill patients and has been shown to reduce mortality by about one third for patients on ventilators, and by about one fifth for patients being maintained on oxygen therapy. The drug is also a part of the National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) and is widely available.

On June 17, the University of Oxford in a press statement said that Dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. However, there was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support. “Overall dexamethasone reduced the 28-day mortality rate by 17 percent with a highly significant trend showing greatest benefit among those patients requiring ventilation,” the University of Oxford in a press statement.

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Based on these results, 1 death would be prevented by treatment of around 8 ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone, read the statement. Hence, the Union Health Secretary, Preeti Sudan has forwarded the updated protocol with all States and UTs to make necessary arrangements for availability and use of the updated protocol and drug Dexamethasone at the institutional level also.

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