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Opinion and Editorial

KT edit: Finally, an 'old' drug that can save lives

Filed on June 17, 2020

Dexamethasone has been in circulation for a while and is prescribed to treat extreme lung infections by doctors

Old drugs and medications to fight a new disease that has baffled experts has been the story of a rather tame quest for a Covid-19 cure. The frontrunners in the race have been remdesivir and the controversial Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), but another existing medication has sprung a surprise in this battle of repurposed drugs during the pandemic. Dexamethasone is a fresh entrant to the race but appears to be more potent in the fight against the pathogen that has infected eight million people. And for a world struggling to come to grips with the disease, this drug holds out real hope till a vaccine is developed and distributed to the masses. It can buy time till an effective preventive treatment can protect populations across the world.

Dexamethasone has been in circulation for a while and is prescribed to treat extreme lung infections by doctors. It is a corticosteroid, perhaps the reason why it has an edge over both remdesivir and HCQ. Trials have shown 'fantastic results, experts in the United Kingdom have said, and it will be immediately given to patients. Researchers have said 5,000 lives could have been saved in the UK alone had it been used earlier among patients. The trials have proven that it can cut deaths by a third. But it remains a mystery why Big Pharma has not even attempted a new drug against the coronavirus. HCQ is an antimalarial drug that became controversial because Donald Trump threw his weight behind it and used it as a prophylactic going against advise by doctors. Liberals, with their wokeness that can put hyper conservatives to shame, lashed out at him even as experts in India said it could be used as a preventive treatment under medical supervision.

But HCQ came a cropper in most trials. It is clear that the drug is not a permanent cure that can bring back an infected patient from the brink of death. It was originally intended for a parasite and is now being used against diseases like arthiritis and lupus. Remdesivir, a failed ebola drug, meanwhile, has fared better in trials and has found favour among researchers. The stocks of Gilead, the company that manufactures the medication, have shot through the roof. While the two drugs fuelled media interest, only Dexamethasone appears to be a life-saver and researchers are gushing about its efficacy. For a world clutching at straws in the war against the pandemic, this is the best news in six months of what seems like a lost year. Maybe all is not lost as global sentiment could turn bullish with this development as millions of lives can be saved.

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