WHO urges ramped-up COVID-19 dexamethasone production
Says COVID-19 is still accelerating and its effects will be felt for decades
– warns world leaders not to ‘politicize’ pandemic
Geneva: The World Health Organization called Monday for a rapid increase in production of the steroid dexamethasone, after British clinical trials found it had life-saving potential for critically-ill coronavirus patients.
Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered dexamethasone to more than 2,000 severely ill patients hospitalised with the new coronavirus.
Among those who could only breathe with the help of a ventilator, it reduced deaths by 35 percent.
"Although the data are still preliminary, the recent finding that the steroid dexamethasone has life-saving potential for critically ill COVID-19 patients gave us a much-needed reason to celebrate," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual news conference in Geneva.
"The next challenge is to increase production and rapidly and equitably distribute dexamethasone worldwide, focusing on where it is needed most.
"Demand has already surged, following the UK trial results showing dexamethasone's clear benefit.
"Fortunately, this is an inexpensive medicine and there are many dexamethasone manufacturers worldwide, who we are confident can accelerate production."
Earlier, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual health forum organised by Dubai authorities that the greatest threat facing the world is not the virus itself, but "the lack of global solidarity and global leadership".
"We cannot defeat this pandemic with a divided world," he said.
"The politicisation of the pandemic has exacerbated it. None of us is safe until all of us are safe."
The WHO warned last week of a new and dangerous phase of the coronavirus pandemic, with people tiring of lockdowns despite the disease's rapid spread.
The COVID-19 illness, which has now killed more than 465,000 people and infected almost nine million worldwide, is surging in the Americas and parts of Asia, even as Europe starts to ease restrictive measures.
Lockdowns imposed to halt the spread of the virus have caused crippling economic damage, but the WHO says the pandemic still poses a major threat.
"The pandemic is still accelerating," Tedros told the virtual conference.
"We know that the pandemic is much more than a health crisis, it is an economic crisis, a social crisis, and in many countries a political crisis," he said. "Its effects will be felt for decades to come."
A vaccine remains months off at best despite several trials, while scientists are still discovering more about the virus, its symptoms and the extent to which it may have spread before being identified. – AFP