Dexamethasone: 1st Drug That May Improve Survival in COVID Cases

Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available drug, could reduce the risk of death for critically ill COVID patients.

Updated16 Jun 2020, 02:04 PM IST
2 min read

Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely available drug, could reduce the risk of death by a third for critically-ill COVID-19 patients on ventilators, and by a fifth for those on oxygen, BBC reported.

The low-dose steroid drug is part of the UK-led clinical trial called RECOVERY. Researchers say that had the drug been used to treat patients in the country from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved.

Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial, was quoted in a Reuters report as saying, "This is a 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.”

An Oxford University team studied around 2000 hospitalised patients who were given dexamethasone, and this group was compared to 4,000 who did not receive the medicine. The risk of death was brought down from 40% to 28% for patients on ventilators, and from 25% to 20% for those needing oxygen.

Co-lead investigator in the trial, Professor 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.”
Prof Peter Horby

The drug is commonly used to reduce inflammation for other conditions, signalling its possible effectiveness in critical COVID-19 patients who experience a cytokine storm; an overreaction of the immune system causing inflammation.

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray has said that the results suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, one life could be saved.

The researchers also pointed out that even though hospitalised patients who need dexamethasone must be given the drug without any delay, the general public should avoid buying it for themselves. There is also no evidence that it could help people with milder symptoms who do not need help breathing.

Importantly, there is no approved treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 yet.

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Published: 16 Jun 2020, 01:25 PM IST
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