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UNICEF in negotiations to buy COVID-19 drug for 4.5 million patients in poor countries

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is currently in negotiations to purchase the steroid-dexamethasone  – for 4.5 million coronavirus infected patients in low and middle-income countries.

According to a report from Reuters, the advance purchase will be made under a deal negotiation led by UNITAID and Wellcome.

According to a joint statement from both agencies, the deal is part of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s plan to accelerate access to therapeutics in the battle against the global pandemic.

“With this advanced purchase we aim to ensure equitable access for low- and middle-income countries for the treatment of COVID-19 with the life-saving drug dexamethasone, and avoid shortages resulting from high levels of demand from other parts of the world,” said Philippe Duneton, acting executive director of UNITAID said in the statement.

The initial purchase will be made for up to 4.5 million people in low and middle-income countries, the agencies said on Friday.

The steroid dexamethasone, originally a corticosteroid medication used in the treatment of conditions such as asthma, inflammatory disorders and certain cancers, was discovered to be effective in treating severe or critical COVID-19 patients on ventilators, following clinical trials in the United Kingdom.

Earlier in June, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire had called on frontline clinicians to consider the use of dexamethasone in the treatment of COVID-19 across the country.

Speaking during one of the daily briefings by the Task Force on COVID-19, Ehanire noted that the drug had been in use since the 1960s and its side effects are well known to medical practitioners

“Luckily, this medicine is not new. It is a well-known steroid that is used for other purposes but was found to be useful in this case (treatment of COVID-19). So it is easy to try it out because we already know its side effects. It is not a product that will get you worried about its possible side effects.

“So we are going to ask our clinician to also consider adding it to their trials and see what result it brings in our circumstances,” he said in the briefing, acknowledging the results from the UK clinical trials.

The World Health Organisation also welcomed the results of the initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom showing that dexamethasone could be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19 and for patients on ventilators.

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