Explained: What Is Budesonide? Can It Help Prevent Severe COVID?

The national task force has added this asthma drug to their COVID treatment guidelines. What do we know about it?

Updated
<div class="paragraphs"><p>What is Budesonide? How does it work?</p></div>
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In what looks like another potential ray of hope, Budesonide—a drug typically used to treat asthma—has been found to be effective in reducing severe COVID symptoms by a recent study published in The Lancet.

Based in the encouraging results of this study, the national task force on COVID has mentioned the drug as an acceptable 'experimental treatment' for mild cases, reported The Times of India.

It has also been included by the UK National Health Service (NHS) in their COVID treatment guidelines as a potential drug to speed up recovery.

The Maharashtra COVID task force, too, is reportedly considering adding the drug to their guidelines for COVID treatment of mild and moderate illness at home.

What is Budesonide? FIT speaks to Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director of the Chest Research Foundation (CRF) in Pune to break it down for us.

Explained: What Is Budesonide? Can It Help Prevent Severe COVID?

  1. 1. What is Budesonide?

    Budesonide is a type of corticosteroid—a class of drugs that help reduce inflammation in the body.

    According to the US National Health Services (NHS), because of their anti-inflammatory properties, corticosteroids or simply steroids, are prescribed for a wide variety of conditions including allergies, Crohn's disease, lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

    Inhaled Budesonide, in particular, is used to treat nasal allergies, and asthma by reducing swelling and irritation in the airways.

    “Budesonide is not a new drug. It has been in use for over 40 years now. It is tried and tested. Furthermore, it is safe, easily available, and is very effective in treating asthma.”
    Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune
    Expand
  2. 2. Budesonide to treat COVID

    The study conducted by researchers at Oxford University, and published in The Lancet, compared the use of inhaled budesonide, as opposed to general care, in 146 adults within seven days of the onset of mild COVID-19 symptoms.

    The researchers found that "early administration of inhaled budesonide reduced the likelihood of needing urgent medical care and reduced time to recovery after early COVID-19."

    The study also found that inhaled budesonide,

    • Significantly reduced the likelihood of requiring urgent care, or hospitalisation (reducing the relative risk by 91 per cent)
    • Lead to a speedier subsiding of fever
    • Provided faster resolution of other symptoms
    • Reduced the likelihood of persistent COVID-19 symptoms at 14 and 28 days

    Budesonide was also found to be safe, with only five (7 per cent) participants reporting adverse side effects.

    According to Dr Salvi, who had the opportunity to interact with the researchers from Oxford, "although this study is small and preliminary, it is robust, the observations are genuine, and the analysis is sound."

    Expand
  3. 3. 'Has the Potential to Be a Game Changer'

    “The treatment for COVID has so far just been exploratory and supportive. There is no anti-viral treatment for COVID as of now. Whether its ivermectin, remdesivir or any other drug, there is no proven effeciacy (to fight COVID) in any of these cases.”
    Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

    "But this study suggests that there is a potential treatment for COVID. And it comes as a pleasant surprise that an asthma drug could be this effective against COVID," he adds.

    He goes on to say that these findings are especially encouraging when compared to "the other experimental drugs that we are currently using out of sheer desperation."

    “Here is a drug that is safe, cheap, easily available, and has been in use for several years, that could actually be an effective treatment for COVID. I think it has the potential to be a game changer.”
    Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

    He goes on to talk about why he thinks this drug could be a game-changer. "If you look at the current scenario, pressure is mounting on the healthcare system because of the drastic spike in severe covid cases that we've been having."

    "Hospitals are fast running out of beds, ventilators, and oxygen supply. This drug could help avoid this, and reduce the suffering of patients on a large scale," he adds.

    Moreover, he says, "compared to the other experimental drugs currently in use (ivermectin, remdesivir) which are also running out and being sold in black at exorbitant prices, here is another alternative that is cheap and widely available."

    Expand
  4. 4. Is There a Downside?

    • Using the inhaler device correctly

    "One of the major challenges with inhaled Budesonide is that it needs to be administered using an inhaler", says Dr Salvi. "This is something that the common person is not well versed with using."

    “Although the device is simple to use, it has to be done correctly. To teach asthma patients to use the device itself has been somewhat of a challenge, and now to expand that to the general population is going to be even more difficult.”
    Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

    But, there are ways to get around this problem. Even if medical professionals are not able to train each and every patient to use the asthma inhaler, there are other ways one can learn to do so themselves.

    According to Dr Salvi, instructional videos, guides on official medical websites can help.

    • Increased demand could lead to a shortage

    Dr Salvi also speaks of the worry that people may misuse, overuse, or incorrectly use the drug.

    “If tomorrow this drug becomes popular, I fear that it will sell like hot cakes. This could lead the asthma patients to face a shortage and suffer.”
    Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

    "That would be a very worrisome scenario," he adds.

    Expand
  5. 5. What about side effects?

    Although steroids are largely considered safe for use in most adults including pregnant and breastfeeding women, doctor's advice before going for it is recommended.

    Prolonged use of high doses of steroids can pose the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and other complications including cataracts in the elderly.

    According to Dr Salvi, the side effects of inhaled Budesonide, specifically, include,

    • Dry mouth

    • Hoarseness in the throat

    • Oral fungal infection

    But, he also says that these side effects only arise when you take high doses of the drug for a prolonged span of years.

    "I would not be bothered about the side effects, since in the case of COVID one would only have to use it for 10-14 days," he adds.

    One should be cautious if they are already on other medication which may interact poorly with corticosteroids like budesonide. Consult your doctor before using the drug.

    (Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

    Expand

What is Budesonide?

Budesonide is a type of corticosteroid—a class of drugs that help reduce inflammation in the body.

According to the US National Health Services (NHS), because of their anti-inflammatory properties, corticosteroids or simply steroids, are prescribed for a wide variety of conditions including allergies, Crohn's disease, lupus and other autoimmune diseases.

Inhaled Budesonide, in particular, is used to treat nasal allergies, and asthma by reducing swelling and irritation in the airways.

“Budesonide is not a new drug. It has been in use for over 40 years now. It is tried and tested. Furthermore, it is safe, easily available, and is very effective in treating asthma.”
Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

Budesonide to treat COVID

The study conducted by researchers at Oxford University, and published in The Lancet, compared the use of inhaled budesonide, as opposed to general care, in 146 adults within seven days of the onset of mild COVID-19 symptoms.

The researchers found that "early administration of inhaled budesonide reduced the likelihood of needing urgent medical care and reduced time to recovery after early COVID-19."

The study also found that inhaled budesonide,

  • Significantly reduced the likelihood of requiring urgent care, or hospitalisation (reducing the relative risk by 91 per cent)
  • Lead to a speedier subsiding of fever
  • Provided faster resolution of other symptoms
  • Reduced the likelihood of persistent COVID-19 symptoms at 14 and 28 days

Budesonide was also found to be safe, with only five (7 per cent) participants reporting adverse side effects.

According to Dr Salvi, who had the opportunity to interact with the researchers from Oxford, "although this study is small and preliminary, it is robust, the observations are genuine, and the analysis is sound."

'Has the Potential to Be a Game Changer'

“The treatment for COVID has so far just been exploratory and supportive. There is no anti-viral treatment for COVID as of now. Whether its ivermectin, remdesivir or any other drug, there is no proven effeciacy (to fight COVID) in any of these cases.”
Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

"But this study suggests that there is a potential treatment for COVID. And it comes as a pleasant surprise that an asthma drug could be this effective against COVID," he adds.

He goes on to say that these findings are especially encouraging when compared to "the other experimental drugs that we are currently using out of sheer desperation."

“Here is a drug that is safe, cheap, easily available, and has been in use for several years, that could actually be an effective treatment for COVID. I think it has the potential to be a game changer.”
Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

He goes on to talk about why he thinks this drug could be a game-changer. "If you look at the current scenario, pressure is mounting on the healthcare system because of the drastic spike in severe covid cases that we've been having."

"Hospitals are fast running out of beds, ventilators, and oxygen supply. This drug could help avoid this, and reduce the suffering of patients on a large scale," he adds.

Moreover, he says, "compared to the other experimental drugs currently in use (ivermectin, remdesivir) which are also running out and being sold in black at exorbitant prices, here is another alternative that is cheap and widely available."

Is There a Downside?

  • Using the inhaler device correctly

"One of the major challenges with inhaled Budesonide is that it needs to be administered using an inhaler", says Dr Salvi. "This is something that the common person is not well versed with using."

“Although the device is simple to use, it has to be done correctly. To teach asthma patients to use the device itself has been somewhat of a challenge, and now to expand that to the general population is going to be even more difficult.”
Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

But, there are ways to get around this problem. Even if medical professionals are not able to train each and every patient to use the asthma inhaler, there are other ways one can learn to do so themselves.

According to Dr Salvi, instructional videos, guides on official medical websites can help.

  • Increased demand could lead to a shortage

Dr Salvi also speaks of the worry that people may misuse, overuse, or incorrectly use the drug.

“If tomorrow this drug becomes popular, I fear that it will sell like hot cakes. This could lead the asthma patients to face a shortage and suffer.”
Dr Sundeep Salvi, Director, Chest Research Foundation (CRF), Pune

"That would be a very worrisome scenario," he adds.

What about side effects?

Although steroids are largely considered safe for use in most adults including pregnant and breastfeeding women, doctor's advice before going for it is recommended.

Prolonged use of high doses of steroids can pose the risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and other complications including cataracts in the elderly.

According to Dr Salvi, the side effects of inhaled Budesonide, specifically, include,

  • Dry mouth

  • Hoarseness in the throat

  • Oral fungal infection

But, he also says that these side effects only arise when you take high doses of the drug for a prolonged span of years.

"I would not be bothered about the side effects, since in the case of COVID one would only have to use it for 10-14 days," he adds.

One should be cautious if they are already on other medication which may interact poorly with corticosteroids like budesonide. Consult your doctor before using the drug.

(Subscribe to FIT on Telegram)

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