South Africa: Dexamethasone Is Not the COVID-19 'Silver Bullet' We Are Looking for


While the world waits for a Covid-19 vaccine, scientists are also urgently looking for medicines to help manage and mitigate the virus's severe health effects. What should we make of the latest sliver of hope?

With confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide surpassing 9.9 million and continuing to grow, scientists are pushing forward with efforts to develop vaccines and treatments to slow the pandemic and lessen the disease's damage. From a medical perspective, the development of a vaccine is seen as the only intervention that can provide a longer-term solution to the problem, as the virus spreads easily and the majority of the world's population is still vulnerable to it.

But a desperate search is also on for medicines to help already sick people fight the virus. On 19 June South Africa's Minister of Health Dr Zweli Mkhize announced that the Department of Health, on advice of the Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19, had approved the use of the drug dexamethasone for all Covid-19 patients on ventilators or requiring non-invasive supplementary oxygen.

This led to a dramatic increase in demand for the drug, with local suppliers reporting they had run out of stock. The minister's policy decision and announcement should, ideally, have...

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