Pharmacy association warns against use of dexamethasone to prevent Covid-19

24 June 2020 - 10:23 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) has warned against the use of dexamethasone to prevent Covid-19.
The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) has warned against the use of dexamethasone to prevent Covid-19.
Image: REUTERS/Yves Herman

The Independent Community Pharmacy Association (ICPA) has cautioned against the use of dexamethasone to prevent Covid-19.

In a statement, the association said it was concerned that people were buying dexamethasone - which is made in SA and which has shown promising results in treating severely ill Covid-19 patients - to prevent Covid-19 infection.

“Dexamethasone, when used correctly, is indeed an extremely useful medicine in a number of conditions,” said Jackie Maimin, CEO of ICPA.

But she warned that the drug could not prevent Covid-19, or any other type of infection. “In fact, it may weaken your immune system and make you more likely to be infected,” she said.

Dexamethasone, according to ICPA, falls into the steroid category of medicines.

The drug made headlines when a trial by the University of Oxford found that the low-dose steroid treatment cuts the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen. 

Dexamethasone has been hailed as a major breakthrough in Covid-19 treatment. According to a recent trial, the low-dose steroid treatment cuts the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth for those on oxygen. While the study is still awaiting peer review, some scientist have welcomed the preliminary results.

The drug, TimesLIVE reported, is used only in patients who require either oxygen or need to be put on a ventilator.

“What it does is that it prevents the immune system from overacting and causing too much damage to the body.”

Maimin warned that when used inappropriately, the drug's harmful side-effects could endanger one's health.

“Dexamethasone is not the type of medicine that can be used for self-medication, so please don’t try to buy it without a prescription from your doctor.”

Maimin also warned consumers about the dangers of buying any medicine online.

“Unless you are buying from a South African pharmacy, which is clearly identified and sells medicines under very strict conditions, you may fall prey to unscrupulous sellers. There will then be no guarantee that you are buying a high-quality product that is safe to use,” she said. 


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