A cheap and widely available drug, the low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus, in what UK Experts within Oxford University are decribing as a major breakthrough in the fight against Coronavirus.
The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.
UK Researchers said that had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, and it could also be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of COVID-19 patients.
The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and it appears that it helps stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.
In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who were not administered the drug.
For patients on ventilators, the drug reduced the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it reduced the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough.”