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Last Updated : Jun 25, 2020 05:23 PM IST | Source: Reuters

US demand outstripping supply of steroid dexamethasone treatment for COVID-19

Hospitals and other health-care customers advised by Vizient increased orders of the drug by more than 600 percent after the researchers announced their findings last week. Manufacturers were only able to fill around half of those orders, Vizient said.

Reuters

Soaring hospital demand for the steroid dexamethasone, which British researchers say significantly reduces mortality among severely ill COVID-19 patients, is outstripping supply of the drug, but hospitals have so far been able to treat patients out of their inventories, according to Vizient Inc, a drug buyer for about half of US hospitals.

Hospitals and other health-care customers advised by Vizient increased orders of the drug by more than 600 percent after the researchers announced their findings last week. Manufacturers were only able to fill around half of those orders, Vizient said.

"What we're hearing from our members is that they are able to treat the patients who do require dexamethasone - they are treating them and they have product," Steven Lucio, vice president of pharmacy solutions at Vizient, said in an interview. "The concern is, Can the market continue to sustain this?"

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Vizient's data shows that hospitals are increasingly putting the drug into use to treat COVID-19 patients, confirming what several US. hospitals in hard-hit parts of the country told Reuters last week.

COVID-19 Vaccine

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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According to Oxford University researchers, dexamethasone reduced death rates by nearly a third among COVID-19 patients requiring mechanical breathing assistance.

The injectable version of dexamethasone has been in shortage in the US since February of last year, according to the US Food and Drug Administration.

Still, German drugmaker Fresenius SE's Kabi unit - by far the largest supplier to the US market - says it has good inventory on hand of the steroid and is ramping up production in three of its US factories to meet the surging demand.

"Fresenius Kabi is confident we can meet customers needs with COVID-related medicines such as dexamethasone," spokesman Matthew Kuhn said in an email.
First Published on Jun 25, 2020 05:15 pm
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