The health ministry has approved the use of the steroid drug dexamethasone for the treatment of novel coronavirus patients, following the approval of remdesivir in May, it came to light on Tuesday.
Dexamethasone has drawn international attention since it was reported in Britain last month that the drug reduced deaths among patients with severe cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus.
The inexpensive and easy-to-obtain drug is used to treat a wide range of conditions including lung disease. It is also covered by medical insurance.
Dexamethasone was mentioned as a government-approved drug in a revised version of a Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry handbook for treating COVID-19 patients.
The handbook, revised Friday, cited the inclusion of the drug in a study by the University of Oxford and revised guidelines for treating COVID-19 patients by the National Institutes of Health of the United States.
Comparing around 2,100 patients who were administered with the drug for 10 days and 4,300 patients who were not, a University of Oxford team said in June that the drug reduced deaths by a third among ventilated patients and by a fifth among patients receiving oxygen only.
However, the death rate did not change for patients who did not require respiratory support, it said.
Taking into account the results of the Oxford study, the NIH revised its guidelines to recommend that the drug be administered to ventilated patients and those requiring oxygen injection.
The World Health Organization said the drug “can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.”
In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.
Your news needs your support
Since the early stages of the COVID-19 crisis, The Japan Times has been providing free access to crucial news on the impact of the novel coronavirus as well as practical information about how to cope with the pandemic. Please consider subscribing today so we can continue offering you up-to-date, in-depth news about Japan.