Namibia to use ICU steroid for Covid patients

By Timo Shihepo

NAMIBIA, hard-pressed with spiking new cases of Covid-19 will start using dexamethasone, a steroid normally used to stabilise Intensive Care Unit (ICU) patients, to combat the coronavirus.

Revelations are that the Namibian case management unit has deliberated on the usage of the steroid primarily on critically ill patients of Covid-19 and consensus has been taken for its administration should need arise.

According to the Journal of Medicine, dexamethasone is a steroid that has been used since the 1960s to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including inflammatory disorders and certain cancers and has been listed on the World Health Organisation (WHO) Model List of Essential Medicines since 1977 in multiple formulations, and is available in most countries.

WHO called for a rapid increase in production of the steroid dexamethasone, after British clinical trials found it had the lifesaving potential for critically-ill coronavirus patients.

Namibian experience

Head of the Namibia Covid-19 case management team Dr. Theo-Ben Kandetu last week confirmed that deliberations have been made on the use of the popular steroid after tests were taken and the response team dealing with the treatment concurred the drug would help stabilise critically ill people.

“We had a meeting with my team and we deliberated well on the issue and agreement is that we can start using this drug as one of the many other remedies to combat the challenge posed on Covid-19,” he said.

According to Dr. Kandetu, the use of steroids on patients in Namibia took longer to be implemented because of the advice from WHO but the international regulatory body has since softened its stance after several successful tests.

Ironically, despite a rather alarming surge in cases of the contagious virus especially in the coastal towns of Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, which are now the epicenter of the pandemic, Namibia has only recorded one severe case that resulted in the intensive care unit.

Availability on the local market

Minister of Health and Social Services, Dr. Kalumbi Shangula also confirmed considerations for the use of the steroid which is also being used in South saying, “There is nothing amiss on the use of the drug as it is readily available in Namibia for other ailments. The issue though is that this is not primarily a Covid-19 drug but is widely used for severely ill patients and should the specific doctor be attending in whatever critical case of Covid-19 sees it beneficial to use the drug it is perfectly fine and commendable as long it’s in the best interest of the patient.”

Pharmaceutical Association of Namibia vice president Ulrich Ritter also seemed to demystify any side effects associated with the use of the steroid on critically ill patients saying whenever it has been administered the steroid has had positive results.

“We mustn’t confuse this as a primarily Covid-19 drug but rather used on most critically ill patients and even those in ICU. The drug in question is well available … What I know is that the drug has in the past done well to stabilise the conditions of patients in a critical condition and perhaps if the experts are looking at the potential of using it, it will not be a surprising issue,” he said.