Scientists in the UK have announced a breakthrough in treating the coronavirus after a cheap steroid has been found to reduce deaths.
The BBC reports that dexamethasone has reduced the mortality rate by a third in the most severe cases where a patient needed to be placed on a ventilator. Previously, the mortality rate for those on a ventilator is above 40 per cent. It also reduced deaths by a fifth for patients needing oxygen.
Over 11,500 patients from 175 NHS hospitals have been enrolled on the Recovery trial since it began in March to test a range of potential COVID-19 treatments. In the dexamethasone study, 2,104 patients received 6mg of dexamethasone once a day by mouth or intravenous injection for 10 days, and the outcome was compared with a control group of 4,321 patients.
Over a 28-day period, the mortality rate among patients requiring ventilation was 41 per cent, and for those needing oxygen, it was 25 per cent. For those not requiring respiratory intervention, the figure was 13 per cent. There was no change in deaths among patients who did not require respiratory support.
The Recovery trial (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) was co-ordinated by scientists from the University of Oxford.
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the university’s Nuffield Department of Medicine, and one of the chief investigators for the trial described it as “an extremely welcome result”.
“This is the only drug that has so far shown to reduce mortality, and it reduces it significantly. It is a major breakthrough, I think,” he said. “Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”
The teams are working to publish the full results of the study as soon as possible.
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