South Africa’s health ministry approved the use of a drug Friday to treat critically ill coronavirus patients.

Health Minister Zweli Mkhize said his department will issue guidelines for the use of dexamethasone in facilities for desperately ill COVID-19 patients.

Researchers at Oxford University last week found dexamethasone reduced deaths in one-third of patients on ventilators and one-fifth in those who require oxygen.
The steroid taken either orally or through injection, is also manufactured in South Africa.

“There are three major suppliers of intravenous dexamethasone in the country. One of the companies manufactures the oral equivalent and supplies it all over the world and so we are able to negotiate the security of our own supply right here at home,” said Mkhize.
He said South Africans can take pride in being one of the countries that will provide a solution to a global crisis.

“This breakthrough is excellent news for us and we are especially fortunate that it came as we are preparing for our upcoming surge,” he said.
Mkhize said it is easy to implement the use of the medicine since it is inexpensive, easy to transport, easy to administer and will not require additional training.
“Our health care workers are very familiar with dexamethasone, having used it for decades as a registered medicine in South Africa,” the country’s top doctor said.
South Africa has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on the continent with 87,715 and 1,831 deaths recorded. The number of recoveries stands at 47,825, which translates to a recovery rate of 54.5%. More than 1 million people have been tested.

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