02 July 2020 | Press releases

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

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.

Notes to Editors

Wellcome: exists to improve health by helping great ideas to thrive. We support researchers, we take on big health challenges, we campaign for better science, and we help everyone get involved with science and health research. We are a politically and financially independent foundation.

UNICEF: works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator: is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, EC, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.The  ACT-Accelerator  is  not  a  decision-making  body  or  a  new  organization, but  works  to  speed  up collaborative efforts among existing organizations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as  possible  by  reducing  COVID-19  mortality  and  severe  disease  through  the  accelerated  development, equitable  allocation,  and  scaled  up  delivery  of  vaccines,  therapeutics  and  diagnostics,  thereby  protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organizations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together,  are  able  to  unlock  new  and  more  ambitious  results against  COVID-19.  Its  members  share  a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.

The  ACT-Accelerator  has  four  areas  of  work:  diagnostics,  therapeutics,  vaccines  and the health  system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation. For more information please see ACT-Accelerator.

Media contacts:

Unitaid: Martin HARVEY | +41 79 249 35 29 | harveym@unitaid.who.int

Wellcome: +44 20 7611 8866 | mediaoffice@wellcome.ac.uk

For information on Unitaid’s response to COVID-19 please see https://unitaid.org/covid-19/#en

Other enquiries click here

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