Dexamethasone treatment promising for COVID-19 patients in Central Florida, doctors say

AdventHealth has been using the drug since March, doctors already seeing shortage

Doctors at AdventHealth said they’ve seen a rise in COVID-19 patients in the last week. They also said the patients have been younger, in their 30s and 40s. While they have the capacity to treat them, they say it can be difficult deciding which treatment to use.

“It’s not like Russian roulette when you just say ‘let me pick this drug, let me pick that drug’ we use science and prior evidence of successful treatment and apply it to COVID,” said Dr. Eduardo Oliveira, the Chief of Critical Care at AdventHealth.

The FDA recently revoked the emergency use authorization of hydroxychloroquine, saying the drug showed no benefit for treating the virus.

Now there’s a new drug in the spotlight, Dexamethasone. It’s a potent anti-inflammatory steroid typically used to treat allergic reactions and asthma. Doctors said it’s inexpensive and widely available.

Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered Dexamethasone to more than 2,000 severely ill COVID-19 patients. Preliminary results from that clinical trial show the drug reduced deaths by 35% for those on a ventilator, and reduced deaths by 20% for those receiving oxygen only.

Dr. Oliveira said the drug is not new, and the hospital had been using the treatment to help COVID-19 patients since March.

“We try to use early on in the disease process so to prevent some degree of inflammation,” Dr. Oliveira said.

Dr. Oliveira said most of his COVID-19 patients who are medically ventilated receive Dexamethasone or a similar drug through an IV once a day for about a week.

"Our go-to treatment is convalescent plasma for patients who qualify. We use steroids like Dexamethasone early on when they go into respiratory failure. And we are proning the patients in their bellies to better ventilate," said Dr. Oliveira.

When all else fails, AdventHealth said it has another unique treatment option. Using an EMCO machine to draw blood, oxygenate it, and pump it back into the body when the lungs are failing.

Dr. Oliveira also stressed that people should not be using drugs like Dexamethasone as a prevention method. He says it will only weaken your immune system and make you more susceptible to getting the virus.

Dr. Oliveira said the hospital is already seeing a reduction in the amount of the drug they have and predicts a shortage for Dexamethasone because of its success rate.

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