‘No barriers to them using it’: Green light for new COVID-19 treatment

Anastasia Tsirtsakis

18/06/2020 1:50:34 PM

Health Minister Greg Hunt has given the okay for the use of dexamethasone in Australia.

Greg Hunt
‘We know we now have an option for the doctors in intensive care to consider,’ Minister Hunt said of the anti-inflammatory dexamethasone. (Image: AAP)

Preliminary results of a trial conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford have shown the widely available steroid can reduce coronavirus-related deaths in patients with severe COVID-19 infections.
After being briefed on the findings, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt has given the go ahead for its use in Australia.
‘It’s not going to prevent you getting it, it’s not going to cure it, but the early but high-quality evidence out of the UK is that [for] people who are very, very sick, it gives them a much better chance of survival,’ Minister Hunt told Sydney radio 2GB.
Australia currently has three COVID-19 patients in intensive care, two of whom are on ventilators.
Minister Hunt said the drug is on the table as a possible treatment.
‘We’re very concerned for them,’ he said. ‘We know we now have an option for the doctors in intensive care to consider.

‘There are no barriers to them using it.’
The UK research, conducted as part of the RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial, is the first to suggest that a drug can reduce COVID-19 mortality.
A total of 2104 patients were randomly selected across 175 UK hospitals to receive dexamethasone 6 mg once per day, either by mouth or intravenous injection, for 10 days and were compared with 4321 patients who received usual care alone.
The findings show the drug can reduce deaths by one-third in ventilated patients, and by one-fifth in other patients receiving supplemental oxygen.
However, the steroid was shown to have no benefit among patients who did not require respiratory support.
Associate Professor Charlotte Hespe, Chair RACGP NSW&ACT, told ABC News Breakfast the anti-inflammatory is a longstanding, widely used medication in medical circles.
‘It would probably appear that the dexamethasone is being used to decrease what we call the “cytokine crisis”, as well as the inflammation in lungs and other parts of the body affected by COVID,’ she said.
‘[It] has then got the wonderful effect from the study numbers that have come out this morning to have a decrease in the death rate for those on a ventilator from four out of 10 dying, down to one in five,’ she said.
While the suggested benefit of the study is promising, Clinical Professor Ian Seppelt, a Senior Specialist in Intensive Care Medicine at Nepean Hospital, said that it is impossible to make a meaningful assessment until the data is published.
‘One of the problems in this pandemic has been the very rapid “news cycle” where results have sometimes been released prematurely without proper review, and sometimes leading to major embarrassment such as the recent publication and subsequent retraction of a large hydroxychloroquine dataset,’ he said.  
‘The RECOVERY trial is a well-designed trial being conducted by a very high-quality team, and I am confident robust data will be published as soon as feasible.’
Once the benefits are confirmed in a peer-reviewed publication, the National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence Taskforce has said it will incorporate the evidence into its guidelines.
Australia has seen something of a coronavirus uptick in recent days, with Victoria recording 21 new cases on Wednesday 17 June and a further 18 on Thursday 18 June.
‘Clearly, we do have community transmission in Victoria and I want to reiterate the message to Victorians to take this issue seriously,’ State Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said on Thursday.
‘Many of these cases are people with very, very mild symptoms, but they’ve done the right thing and gone and been tested, and that is how we will manage the spread of the virus.’
Log in below to join the conversation.

coronavirus COVID-19 dexamethasone

newsGP weekly poll How long do you usually spend completing a review of a GP Mental Health Plan?

newsGP weekly poll How long do you usually spend completing a review of a GP Mental Health Plan?



Login to comment

A.Prof Ralph Gustav Audehm   19/06/2020 8:16:37 AM

it is not up to him!!!

Dr Ratnakar Bhattacharyya   20/06/2020 6:01:55 PM

This is good news