Steroid drug hailed as ‘breakthrough’ for seriously ill COVID-19 patients
A cheap and widely used steroid called dexamethasone has become the first drug shown to be able to save the lives of COVID-19 patients in what scientists said is a “major breakthrough” in the coronavirus pandemic.
Trial results announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.
The preliminary results, which have not been peer-reviewed, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease, said the researchers who led the trials.
They said they would work to publish the full details of the trial as soon as possible, and many scientists said they hope to be able to review the evidence for themselves soon, especially given the recent retraction of an influential COVID-19 study.
Britain’s health ministry wasted no time, saying the drug had been approved for use in the state-run health service, export restrictions had been introduced and 200,000 courses of the treatment had been stockpiled.
“This is a (trial) result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial.
“For less than 50 pounds ($63), you can treat eight patients and save a life,” he said in an online briefing. One death would be prevented in every 25 COVID-19 patients on oxygen that received the drug, he calculated.