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Image / Editorial

‘A major breakthrough’: Affordable steroid proven to reduce mortality rates in coronavirus patients

by Shayna Sappington
17th Jun 2020

A recent trial showed that the widely available steroid, dexamethasone, significantly reduces risk of death for hospitalised patients diagnosed with Covid-19

A RECOVERY trial conducted at Oxford University found that the steroid dexamethasone is the first drug to improve survival rates in coronavirus patients.

Led by doctors and epidemiology experts, Peter Horby and Martin Landray, the trial looked at over 6,400 patients. About 2,100 patients were given dexamethasone once a day for ten days while over 4,300 were given usual care.

Reduced mortality rate

The results showed that dexamethasone reduced the risk of dying by one-third in ventilated patients and by one-fifth in other patients receiving oxygen only. 

As there was no benefit among those who did not need respiratory intervention, the steroid only greatly helps high-risk patients.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Witty said: “This is the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far. It shows significant reduction in mortality in those requiring oxygen or ventilation from a widely available, safe and well known drug. 

“We should all be grateful to the patients who volunteered and those who made this trial possible. It will save lives around the world.”

In fact, experts say that if this drug was used at the start of the UK’s outbreak it could have saved up to 5,000 lives. 

Affordable and widely available

“Dexamethasone is cheap and widely available,” said lead researcher Peter Horby, “and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

The drug is already used around the world as an anti-inflammatory, treating common conditions like arthritis, asthma and some skin disorders.

The trial’s researchers say dexamethasone treatment lasts up to ten days and costs just £5 per patient.

While hospitalised patients should be given the steroid when appropriate, researchers said, people should not buy it and try to use it at home.

“Since the appearance of Covid-19, the search has been on for treatments that improve survival, particularly in the sickest patients,” said chief investigator Martin Landray.

“These preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear—dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with respiratory complications.

“Covid-19 is a global disease. It is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is instantly available and affordable worldwide.”


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