Japan approves use of dexamethasone as a treatment for COVID-19

Tokyo, Jul 22 (efe-epa).- The government of Japan has approved the use of dexamethasone as a treatment for COVID-19, following positive preliminary results of a clinical trial of the drug in the United Kingdom, public broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday.

This steroid, which has been used since the 1960s to treat other ailments and is very cheap, has received approval from the Japanese authorities after the UK published a study in June showing that dexamethasone reduces mortality in patients infected with the novel coronavirus.

Dexamethasone, whose production and distribution has also been recommended by the World Health Organization, is the second drug to be approved as a treatment for COVID-19 in Japan following remdesivir, whose use was approved in May.

In a statement following the release of the study, the WHO said the use of the drug “can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.”

However, it added that “the benefit was only seen in patients seriously ill with COVID-19, and was not observed in patients with milder disease.”

The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare has included dexamethasone in its latest handbook of guidelines for treating COVID-19 patients and also decided that the drug will be covered by medical insurance, according to national broadcaster Kyodo.

The UK clinical trial shows that the steroid lowered mortality by about one third in COVID-19 patients on ventilators and by one fifth in patients requiring oxygen.

Japan has also approved the experimental use of the antiviral medication, favipiravir, sold under the brand name Avigan by the pharmaceutical company Fujifilm Toyama Chemical, although it has not yet approved it as a treatment after a clinical trial of the drug did not yield conclusive results on its effectiveness.

The Japanese government had expressed its desire to fast-track the approval of favipiravir by the end of May and even aimed to triple its production.

It also promised that it would guarantee the supply of the drug to other countries.

The drug has already been approved in Russia and India and is the subject of other clinical trials in several countries.

A total of 25,736 confirmed cases had been reported in Japan until Tuesday with 988 deaths. Some 20,155 people have recovered from disease in the country. EFE-EPA


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