NEW DELHI: The union health ministry on Saturday allowed usage of inexpensive, widely used steroid "dexamethasone" for treating COVID-19 patients in moderate to severe stages of illness.
The ministry's updated protocol includes the advice to use dexamethasone as an alternative choice to methylprednisolone. The change has been made after considering the latest available evidence and expert consultation, the ministry said.
According to the revised ''Clinical Management Protocols for COVID-19'', dexamethasone which is already used in treating lung infections besides in a wide range of conditions for its anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant effects can be used as an alternative to methylprednisolone which already existed in the treatment guidelines.
Earlier, the ministry allowed the use of antiviral drug remdesivir for restricted emergency use.
It also allowed off-label application of tocilizumab, a drug that modifies the immune system or its functioning, and convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19 patients in moderate stage of the illness as an “investigational therapy”.
The ministry has also recommended anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in patients during the early course of the disease and not on critically ill patients.
The use of these drugs continues to be included in the revised treatment protocols under the ''investigational therapy''.
The revised treatment protocols were issued as India's COVID-19 tally raced past the five-lakh mark on Saturday with the biggest single-day surge of 18,552 cases. The death toll climbed to 15,685 with 384 fatalities, the updated figure at 8 am showed.