Mbabane: The cheap steroid, Dexamethasone, that has been hailed as a breakthough treatment to reduce fatalities among severely ill Covid-19 patients is readily available in South Africa from E149 (US$8.76), Independent News has reliably learnt.
South African publication, Business Insider reported that the regulated price per dexamethasone injection is between E149-E176 (US$8.76-US$10.35) in South Africa. It is typically used to treat arthritis and breathing disorders.
South Africa’s pharmaceutical giant Aspen produces dexamethasone injections in South Africa, and its CEO Stephen Saad confirmed to Business Insider SA that there should be sufficient supplies to meet local demand.
“It all depends on where and when we get the surges. We should be fine for South Africa, (as) we make this in South Africa.”
South Africa faced a shortage of dexamethasone, which is also used to treat leukaemia and terminal brain tumours as recently as in 2016, after Merck & Company discontinued production in SA, the health journalism organization, Bhekisisa reported at the time.
Since then Aspen has started production, and other companies including Adcock Ingram and Sanofi are registered to distribute dexamethasone in South Africa.
Aspen is also a major supplier of the medicine in other markets, including the UK.
Dexamethasone has been proven to reduced deaths by one-third in patients on ventilators, the University of Oxford said in a statement on Tuesday. It reduced fatalities by a fifth among those who received oxygen support.
The finding came from the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments on Covid-19 patients.
More than 11 500 patients in 175 UK hospitals are part of the trial, and more than 2 100 of them received 6mg of dexamethasone once per day.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed it at the ‘biggest breakthrough yet’ in the UK’s coronavirus fight.
It’s a startling result,” Kenneth Baillie, an intensive-care physician at the University of Edinburgh, who serves on the steering committee of the trial, told Nature Magazine . “It will clearly have a massive global impact.”
“The other registrations largely in Europe are manufactured there. We were able to largely meet the massive surges in anaesthetics in Europe and we were a major supplier of these products to our European patient base,” said Saad.
While daily doses of dexamethasone could prevent one in eight ventilated patient deaths and save one out of every 25 patients requiring oxygen, the steroid had no effect on outcomes among those with mild cases of Covid-19 (people not receiving oxygen or ventilation), the study found.
Globally, confirmed Covid-19 positive cases stands at over 8 176 million, 443 765 deaths, and over 3 956 million recoveries. Eswatini has recorded 520 positive cases, 259 recoveries and four deaths as of Tuesday.