LAHORE: The Punjab government on Wednesday banned the sale of the steroid drug Dexamethasone without a doctor’s prescription.
The chief drug controller issued directives for drug inspectors to monitor the distribution of the vital life-saving drug across the province and maintain a record of the drug’s stock
The directives are aimed at averting possible hoarding of the steroid drug after a breakthrough was made in COVID-19 treatment for critically ill patients.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza has said a technical team will consider using dexamethasone medicine to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.
The special assistant pointed out the World Health Organisation (WHO) has welcomed the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom show dexamethasone can be lifesaving for patients who are critically-ill with COVID-19.
Dr Zafar Mirza said it is an old and cheap anti-inflammatory medicine (steroid) and there are multiple producers in Pakistan. The special assistant, however, warned that dexamethasone is only for critically ill COVID-19 patients who are on oxygen and ventilators.
He said the medicine must not be used by mild to moderate patients and that self-medication is strictly prohibited and can be dangerous as the medicine has many side-effects.
This comes after researchers in the United Kingdom claimed to found the first life-saving drug for critically-ill coronavirus patients.
According to the trial data, giving low doses of the generic steroid drug dexamethasone to COVID-19 patients reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection.
The UK researchers suggested that the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospitals with the disease.
Dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one-fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only.
There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support. The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions.