Results of a trial have shown that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid drug which is used to reduce inflammation, reduced death rates by around a third in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients. Picture: Getty Images
Results of a trial have shown that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid drug which is used to reduce inflammation, reduced death rates by around a third in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients. Picture: Getty Images

WHO calls for quicker production on ‘life-saving’ drug

The World Health Organisation has called for a rapid increase in production of the steroid dexamethasone, after British clinical trials found it had lifesaving potential for critically-ill coronavirus patients.

Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered dexamethasone to more than 2000 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 per cent.

"Although the data are still preliminary, the recent finding that the steroid dexamethasone has lifesaving 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.

Results of a trial announced have shown that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid drug which is used to reduce inflammation, reduced death rates by around a third in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients. Picture: Getty Images
Results of a trial announced have shown that Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid drug which is used to reduce inflammation, reduced death rates by around a third in the most severely ill COVID-19 patients. Picture: Getty Images

"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." A low-dose steroid, dexamethasone has been on the market for over 60 years and usually serves to reduce inflammation.

The WHO emphasises that dexamethasone should only be used for patients with severe or critical disease, under close clinical supervision.

There is no evidence that the drug works for patients with mild disease or as a preventive measure, and it could cause harm, Tedros said.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has topped nine million, according to an AFP tally using official sources.

CHINA ENTERS SECOND PHASE OF VACCINE TRIALS

Chinese researchers have started a second phase human trial of a possible coronavirus vaccine, the Institute of Medical Biology at Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences says, in efforts to further assess effectiveness and safety.

About a dozen vaccines are in different stages of human tests globally, as the World Health Organisation warns the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating and "the world is in a new and dangerous phase".

 

However, none of the vaccine trials have passed large-scale, late-stage phase 3 clinical trials, a necessary step before getting regulatory approval for sale.

The Chinese medical science academy on Saturday began a phase 2 human test for its experimental shot, which is among six possible vaccines Chinese scientists are testing in humans, following an ongoing phase-1 study that has recruited about 200 participants since May, the institute said on Sunday in its social media channel.

The phase-2 trial will determine the shot's dose and continue to evaluate whether the potential vaccine can safely trigger immune responses in healthy people.

The academy said it expects to use a plant dedicated to producing a coronavirus vaccine this year to prepare for China's future vaccine supplies. As early as by the end of 2020, certain groups of people with special needs can use experimental vaccines under urgent circumstances, Gao Fu, director at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, said last month.

The coronavirus, which was first detected in China late in 2019, has infected 8.8 million people globally and killed more than 460,000 people.

 

 

NEW VACCINE TRIALS START IN AUSTRALIA

A coronavirus vaccine being developed in partnership with the British pharmaceutical group GlaxoSmithKline has begun human clinical trials in Western Australia.

The public drugs company is providing its technology as part of a collaboration with Clover Biopharmaceuticals of China.

After promising preclinical results in animals, the vaccine has begun a phase-one study in Perth.

 

Glaxo and Clover are planning a more in-depth phase-two trial, which it is hoped will start later in the year.

The partnership with Clover is one of several COVID-19 vaccine projects involving Glaxo, which also include a venture with Sanofi, of France.

The Australian reports that Glaxo is a leading player in the global vaccines market, along with Sanofi and the American companies Merck and Pfizer.

Formed via the merger in 2000 of Glaxo Wellcome and Smithkline Beecham, it also operates a pharmaceuticals business and a consumer healthcare division.

Drug developers use adjuvants in vaccines to boost the body's immune response to produce more antibodies. This is seen as being important in a pandemic, in particular, because it can reduce the amount of vaccine protein required per dose, allowing more vaccine doses to be produced and therefore helping to protect more people.

CSIRO working on a potential vaccine for the coronavirus. Picture: Supplied
CSIRO working on a potential vaccine for the coronavirus. Picture: Supplied

The Chengdu-based Clover has one of the largest in-house biomanufacturing capabilities in China, meaning that it can produce large quantities of vaccines.

Thomas Breuer, chief medical officer of Glaxo's vaccines division, said that its approach "holds the promise to produce vaccines at scale, potentially benefiting billions of people … If this trial is successful, we hope to be in a position to move into more advanced trials later in the year."

 

 

Originally published as WHO calls for quicker production on 'life-saving' drug



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