According to one of his doctors, President Trump has started taking dexamethasone to treat COVID-19. Doctors also said they gave Trump antibody treatment and the antiviral drug remdesivir.
Dexamethasone belongs to a class of drugs called corticosteroids. This indicates that it is a synthetic hormone that acts on the adrenal system. Drugs like this are widely used to treat inflammation, which can be a symptom of conditions like arthritis, severe allergies, asthma, bowel disorders, thyroid disease, and some types of cancer, MedlinePlus says.
When it comes to the use of dexamethasone to treat COVID-19, the evidence is limited. However, the research we have available suggests that this may have some benefits, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), especially for very sick patients.
Some of the best evidence of dexamethasone̵
The results were particularly noteworthy when examining patients who needed airway support. Patients who received dexamethasone and required mechanical ventilation were less likely to die within 28 days than patients who received standard care (29% death rate versus 41%). Dexamethasone also showed promise when it came to helping those who were receiving oxygen, but not as much as those who needed mechanical ventilation. But dexamethasone did not appear to be of service to those who did not need this breathing support and possibly even interfered with their care, the authors write. These results suggest that in patients with a particularly severe case of COVID-19, dexamethasone may help keep them alive. But for those who aren’t having symptoms as severe, it’s not helpful and can actually be harmful.
In most cases, dexamethasone is prescribed for short-term use and does not cause serious side effects, although stomach upset is common, according to MedlinePlus. However, with prolonged use, side effects can be serious and include glaucoma, high blood pressure, and hyperglycemia, which can make existing diabetes worse, according to the WHO. It can also have psychological effects, including mood swings, confusion, irritation, and memory problems. That means that, as with any drug, weighing the potential benefits and risks it can pose to each individual patient is critical.
There is no magical solution to COVID-19 and, as SELF explained earlier, there probably never will be one. However, dexamethasone can be helpful in treating many conditions. And recent research suggests it may also be beneficial for some people with severe coronavirus symptoms, especially those who need mechanical ventilation or supplemental oxygen. But it can also cause some serious side effects – including psychological side effects that can cause mood swings and impair judgment – especially if taken over a long period of time.