Aspen stock rises as world uncovers wonder drug that fights Covid-19

Dexamethasone, manufactured in SA and Germany under a global licence by Johannesburg-listed Aspen, has been hailed as a major breakthrough in the global battle to reduce the number of deaths from Covid-19. At the weekend, it was revealed in the UK that the cheap drug had proved remarkably effective in bringing down the death toll at hospitals. The Telegraph said that the steroid, bought for the equivalent of about R100 (£5) in the UK and already available in British hospitals, cuts deaths of people on ventilators by one third and will be rolled out this week. The Aspen price powered up on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange as news emerged that Dexamethasone will be in high demand globally.  – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

Dexamethasone, an anti-inflammatory medication used to treat arthritis, severe allergies and asthma, is the first drug that has been shown to save lives and experts hailed the results as a ‘major breakthrough’, reports The Telegraph.

A trial of 2,100 patients showed that it reduced the death rate of people on ventilators by 30 per cent, says the newspaper.

Currently four in 10 patients with the most severe form of Covid-19 who need mechanical ventilation will die.  In other key points highlighted in The Telegraph about Dexamethasone:

  • The steroid saves one life for every eight patients on ventilators, meaning just two people instead of three will die. It also cuts the death rate of people needing oxygen by one fifth.
  • Scientists at Oxford University who have been carrying out the trials said up to 5,000 lives could have been saved if they had known about the drug at the beginning of the epidemic.

Martin Landray, Deputy Chief Investigator, is quoted as saying: “It is a major breakthrough in a number of regards.

“Since the advent of this disease less than six months ago the search has been on for a treatment that actually reduces the risk of dying and there hasn’t been one until today. Now there is one. The results are sufficiently clear and people can be treated this evening. That’s a major major step forward.”

Landray emphasises that “this is not an expensive drug, this is not a drug where there are supply chain issues or manufacturing issues, this is a drug that is globally available, so that is enormously important”.

“It’s going to be hard for any drug to replace this given that for less than £50 you could take eight patients and save a life,” he notes

Professor Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, also signalled the discovery as a significant step forward in fighting Covid-19, saying: “This is a huge breakthrough in our search for new ways to successfully treat patients with Covid, both in the UK and across the world.”

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens added: “NHS hospitals, researchers and clinicians have worked together at breakneck speed to test new treatments for covid-19, and it is amazing to see work that would normally take years bear fruit in just a matter of months.”

The results, says The Telegraph, are part of the Recovery (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial, which was set up in March to test a range of potential treatments for COVID-19, including low-dose Dexamethasone. More than 11,500 patients have been enrolled from over 175 NHS hospitals in the UK, says the newspaper.

“In the dexamethasone arm, patients were given a low dose of the steroid once a day for 10 days and compared to those who were given usual treatment without the extra medication.

“Among the patients who received usual care alone, 28-day mortality was highest in those who required ventilation (41 per cent), intermediate in those patients who required oxygen only (25 per cent), and lowest among those who did not require any respiratory intervention (13 per cent),” says The Telegraph.

“Dexamethasone reduced deaths by one-third in ventilated patients and by one fifth in other patients receiving oxygen.  However there was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support suggesting that the drug works once the immune system has gone into overdrive and inflammation has stopped the lungs being able to function properly.”

The researchers “said the drug should become the standard of care in the most sick patients”, adds the publication.

SENS announcement

USE OF DEXAMETHASONE IN THE TREATMENT OF PATIENTS WITH COVID-19 REQUIRING RESPIRATORY

INTERVENTION

To ensure the equal distribution of information which may possibly be price sensitive, Aspen has noted the preliminary results of a drug trial using dexamethasone in the treatment of patients with COVID-19 requiring respiratory intervention and the related media coverage. It is confirmed that Aspen owns rights to this product and distributes both injectables and/or tablets containing dexamethasone in a number of countries. Aspen markets an injectable dexamethasone in South Africa, which is manufactured locally by a third party.

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