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WHO Should Use Prednisone for COVID-19?

WHO Should Use Prednisone for COVID-19?

Corticosteroids Save Lives

Prednisone and its sisters, the corticosteroids, are the only drugs shown to save lives of those infected with COVID-19.

WHO, the World Health Organization, just this week, on September 2, 2020, published a new guidance for doctors treating those with COVID-19. 

WHO’s publication reflects what we all know too well: prednisone should only be used in rare circumstances, when the benefits outweigh the risks.

WHO said: 

“Recommendation 1: We recommend systemic corticosteroids rather than no corticosteroids for the treatment of patients. That has severe and critical COVID-19 (strong recommendation, based on moderate certainty evidence) 

“Recommendation 2: We suggest not to use corticosteroids in the treatment of patients with non-severe COVID-19 (conditional recommendation, based on low certainty evidence)”

Essentially, they are saying that if someone is nearly going to die of COVID-19, then using corticosteroids can improve their chance of living. Otherwise the side effects are too terrible to justify. 

Specifically, dexamethasone shows the most benefit.

Check out this video blog about whether or not to stockpile dexamethasone.

Who Would Refuse Treatment?

WHO continued:

“…Given the expected effect of systemic corticosteroids on mortality, most patients would not refuse this intervention to avoid adverse events believed to be markedly less important to most patients than death.”

Do you agree? The side effects are not as bad as death?

Sometimes it seems people believe otherwise. Sometimes the side effects are so terrible, it’s life-changing.

I think this meme from @adrenalfunnies sums it up well.

What if I’m already on Prednisone? Should I stop taking it?

The WHO panel answered this question. They said:

“…Systemic corticosteroids should not be stopped for patients with non-severe COVID-19 who are already treated with systemic corticosteroids for other reasons (e.g. patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease need not discontinue a course of systemic oral corticosteroids; or other chronic autoimmune diseases).”

Basically, this means that you should not stop taking prednisone if you are already taking it, even if you get COVID-19.

NEVER stop taking prednisone suddenly. Always work closely with your doctor to slowly taper it.

Dr. Megan Milne, PharmD, BCACP

Dr. Megan Milne, PharmD, BCACP, is an award-winning clinical pharmacist board certified in the types of conditions people take prednisone for. Dr. Megan had to take prednisone herself for an autoimmune condition so understands what it feels like to suffer prednisone side effects and made it her mission to counteract them as the Prednisone Pharmacist.

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