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Dexamethasone (Molecule of the Month for June 2020)

Dextenza, Ozurdex, Neofordex

Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid medication used to treat rheumatic problems, a number of skin diseases, severe allergies, asthma, chronic obstructive lung disease, croup, brain swelling, eye pain following eye surgery, and along with antibiotics in tuberculosis. In adrenocortical insufficiency, it may be used in combination with a mineralocorticoid medication such as fludrocortisone. In preterm labor, it may be used to improve outcomes in the baby. It may be given by mouth, as an injection into a muscle, as an injection into a vein, as a topical cream or ointment for the skin or as a topical ophthalmic solution to the eye. Dexamethasone may be administered before antibiotics in cases of bacterial meningitis. It acts to reduce the inflammatory response of the body to the bacteria killed by the antibiotics (bacterial death releases proinflammatory mediators that can cause a response which is harmful), thus reducing hearing loss and neurological damage. People with cancer undergoing chemotherapy are often given dexamethasone to counteract certain side effects of their antitumor treatments. Dexamethasone can increase the antiemetic effect of 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, such as ondansetron. Dexamethasone is used in the treatment of high-altitude cerebral edema (HACE), as well as high-altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE). It is commonly carried on mountain-climbing expeditions to help climbers deal with complications of altitude sickness.

Dexamethasone is recommended by the National Health Service in the UK and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US for patients with COVID-19 who need either mechanical ventilation or supplemental oxygen (without ventilation). Dexamethasone is otherwise not recommended. On 16 June 2020, the RECOVERY Trial announced preliminary results stating that dexamethasone improves survival rates of hospitalized patients with COVID‑19 receiving oxygen or on a ventilator. Benefits were only observed in patients requiring respiratory support; those who did not require breathing support saw a worse survival rate than the control group, although the difference may have been due to chance. A meta-analysis of seven clinical trials of critically ill COVID-19 patients, each treated with one of three different corticosteroids found a statistically significant reduction in death. The largest reduction was obtained with dexamethasone (36% compared to placebo). In September 2020, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) endorsed the use of dexamethasone in adults and adolescents (from twelve years of age and weighing at least 40 kg) who require supplemental oxygen therapy. Dexamethasone can be taken by mouth or given as an injection or infusion (drip) into a vein.

Dexamethasone was first made in 1957 by Philip Showalter Hench and was approved for medical use in 1961.It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines. In 2017, it was the 321st most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than one million prescriptions.

Formal Chemical Name (IUPAC)



Picture of Dexamethasone 3D model

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Dexamethasone structure
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Picture of Dexamethasone

C22 H29 F O5

Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for June 2020 )

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