Health Director-General Patrick Amoth has cautioned the Kenyan public against the side effects of dexamethasone in treating coronavirus patients.

This follows initial clinical trial results from the United Kingdom (UK) that show dexamethasone can be lifesaving for patients who are critically ill with the deadly virus.

Dr Amoth on Wednesday urged Kenyans not to rush to buy the drug over the counter without knowing its side effects.

He noted that fluid retention is one of the drug’s side effects and a patient might gain weight. Dexamethasone, a steroid used to reduce inflammation in a range of conditions, including certain cancers, can also raise blood pressure as well as blood sugar in diabetics, said Amoth.

“If you’re on insulin or oral medicine for treating diabetes, you will require a higher dose to control your sugar,” he said.

The drug that has been hailed as a major breakthrough in the treatment of Covid-19, also affects the sleep pattern and can cause depression since it affects the mood.

“Any person taking this particular medicine must be wary of these effects,” Dr Amoth warned.

The World Health Organisation has since welcomed the clinical trial results.

“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This is great news and I congratulate the Government of the UK, the University of Oxford, and the many hospitals and patients in the UK who have contributed to this lifesaving scientific breakthrough.”