DOH warns vs self-medicating with dexamethasone after promising COVID-19 clinical trials

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 17 2020 01:12 PM

A pharmacist displays an ampule of Dexamethasone at the Erasme Hospital amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brussels, Belgium, June 16, 2020. Yves Herman, Reuters

MANILA — The Department of Health on Wednesday reminded Filipinos that the steroid treatment dexamethasone is not yet approved as a COVID-19 treatment and should not be used outside of the hospital.

This, following promising clinical trials in the United Kingdom which showed the drugs could help save those critically ill from the virus.

“Alam naman natin ang dexamethasone is a steroid eh. It has anti-inflammatory properties na maaaring makatulong talaga sa nangyayari sa isang tao 'pag siya ay nagka-COVID,” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a media briefing on Wednesday morning.

(We know that dexamethasone is a steroid. It has anti-inflammatory properties that can help a person who has COVID.)

“People might think this is the magic pill for COVID. it is not,” she cautioned.

“Dapat mapakalat natin sa mga tao na hindi tayo bibili sa drug stores para inumin natin ito para ma-prevent na magkaka-COVID tayo,” she said.

(We should inform people that you shouldn’t buy this from the drug store and take it to prevent COVID-19.)

Vergeire pointed out that the study done by the University of Oxford, which showed that dexamethasone helped save the lives of a third of severely ill patients who took it, was done in hospitals.

The said initial study also showed that dexamethasone reduced the deaths of those receiving oxygen or were on ventilators by a fifth.

However, besides being just a preliminary study, it is not yet peer-reviewed, which means it has not yet been analyzed by other experts.

Vergeire said it is crucial for studies to be peer-reviewed first.

She said it is only after then that Philippine experts would look into dexamethasone. 

The health official also pointed out that dexamethasone is not considered a cure but only part of the support treatment for COVID-19 patients with severe symptoms.

“Yes this is a breakthrough in science if ever pero kailangan antayin natin makumpleto ang proseso ng pag-aaral,” she added.

(Yes this is a breakthrough in science if ever, but we need to wait for the study to be completed.)

Vergeire also told people to be wary about those linking dexamethasone and the Fabunan antiviral drug. 

While it claims to include dexamethasone as a component, it has only been given to mild and asymptomatic outpatients. It is also still not registered with the Food and Drug Administration, which means that its effectivity has not yet been validated.

Vergeire said the group selling the so-called antiviral drug has a license to operate but their products are unregistered, which means they cannot sell it.