An ampoule of Dexamethasone is seen in this picture illustration
An ampoule of Dexamethasone is seen in this picture illustration

SA manufactures breakthrough coronavirus drug

By MTHOKOZISI DUBE Time of article published Jun 17, 2020

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The newly-discovered coronavirus breakthrough drug, dexamethasone, is produced and readily available in South Africa, giving hope amid a surge in both infections and deaths from the killer pandemic.

The drug was already used for inflammatory disorders and certain cancers but it has now been found to be useful in coronavirus treatment.

A clinical trial in the United Kingdom concluded that dexamethasone, a steroid, can save critically ill coronavirus patients requiring any respiratory intervention, in what has been hailed as a major breakthrough in finding a remedy for the global pandemic.

Research shows that the drug reduced deaths by one-third for Covid-19 patients on ventilators and it cuts mortality by about one-fifth on patients requiring oxygen according to preliminary findings shared with and approved by the World Health Organisation.

The findings came from 2104 randomised patients who had 6mg of dexamethasone administered to them per day for 10 days among over 11, 500 patients who were enrolled for the trial from over 175 NHS hospitals in the UK.

South African pharmaceutical giant Aspen makes dexamethasone injections whose regulated price range between R149 and R176 locally.

The company, which has international markets including the UK, is projecting an increase in demand for the drug and its chief executive officer Stephen Saad has given assurance for adequate supplies on the domestic front.

“It all depends on where and when we get the surges. We should be fine for South Africa, as we make this in South Africa,” Mr Saad said.

Fears that there could be a shortage of the drug in South Africa comes following insufficient supplies in 2006 after patent holder Merck & Company stopped production in what was a huge medical inconvenience for cancer patients who rely on the drug.

But Aspen is now producing dexamethasone while companies like Adcock Ingram and Sanofi are registered to distribute the drug in South Africa.

The findings on dexamethasone come as South Africa has the highest coronavirus infections in Africa with 76,334 and 1,625 deaths which are close to Egypt's 1,766 which is the highest mortality on the continent.

Meanwhile, Morocco has shipped out consignments of locally manufactured and internationally approved medical supplies to 15 African countries.

The north African country this week sent out eight million face masks, 900,000 visors, 600,000 hygiene caps, 60,000 medical coats, 30,000 litres of hydroalcoholic gel all manufactured locally.

“All the products and protective equipment part of the medical aid sent are manufactured by Moroccan companies and comply with the standards of the World Health Organization,” Morocco’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

The supplies were given out at the instruction of His Majesty King Mohammed VI.“It’s also composed of 75,000 packs of chloroquine and 15,000 packs of Azithromycin, two drugs used for the treatment of Covid-19.”

The aid will benefit 15 African countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Senegal, Tanzania and Zambia.


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