ACT-Accelerator moves to expand access to dexamethasone for low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 treatment

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ACT-Accelerator moves to expand access to dexamethasone for low- and middle-income countries for COVID-19 treatment
02 July 2020 | Press releases
Geneva – Unitaid and Wellcome have joined forces with partners in the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) to expand access to dexamethasone for low- and middle-income countries as part ensuring equitable access to therapeutics in the COVID-19 response.

Working with other partners in the ACT-A Therapeutics Partnership, UNICEF and Unitaid have agreed an initial purchase of oral and injectable dexamethasone to secure quality treatment. This move will support access for patients in low- and middle-income countries, where it is expected that up to 4.5 million patients could benefit from dexamethasone based on preliminary projection of needs.

Initial funding has been committed equally by UNICEF and Unitaid, with additional funding to come from pledges made to the ACT-A Therapeutics Partnership.

This is a concrete example of the efforts to coordinate a global response to the COVID-19 pandemic through the ACT-A, and in particular the Therapeutics Partnership. Under the joint leadership of Unitaid and Wellcome the ACT-A Therapeutics Partnership is continuing work to identify, accelerate and deliver therapeutics for COVID-19.

Dr Philippe Duneton, Unitaid Executive Director a.i., said, “With this advanced purchase we aim to ensure equitable access for low- and middle-income countries for treatment of COVID-19 with the life-saving drug dexamethasone, and avoid shortages resulting from high-levels of demand from other parts of the world. It will allow UNICEF, the Global Fund and other partners to procure quality dexamethasone.”

Paul Schreier, Chief Operating Officer, Wellcome, said “Dexamethasone is the first and only drug that has made a significant difference to patient mortality for COVID-19, and this agreement will help patients in low-and middle income countries access it.

Researchers have worked at an unprecedented speed to get these results. The ACT-Accelerator is matching this pace by ensuring manufacturing and delivery is as smooth – and equitable – as possible. We don’t yet know which treatments, tests and vaccines will be the most effective, which is why we must invest in wide range of options – at risk and at scale.”

“UNICEF and Unitaid along with other ACT Accelerator partners have taken steps now to pre-empt market constraints to facilitate access to a demonstrated life-saving product,” said Etleva Kadilli, Director of the UNICEF supply and procurement headquarters. “I am proud of the collaboration, agility and expertise that will allow us to secure these initial quantities of Dexamethasone. It represents another step towards equitable access to much-needed COVID-19 tools particularly for low and middle income countries. UNICEF will work with WHO and government partners to deliver these medicines and to procure more as more funds are made available.”

Dexamethasone is a low-cost corticosteroid, a class of medicines used to provide relief for inflammation. Evidence announced in June 2020 suggested that dexamethasone can save lives of patients with severe or critical symptoms of COVID-19 that are on ventilators or receiving oxygen therapy.

The World Health Organization is expected to issue revised guidance on the use of dexamethasone in the coming weeks, and this together with national guidelines, will be essential to ensure dexamethasone is used safely and appropriately.