British researchers claim a steroid currently on the drug market could be a life-saving treatment for COVID-19 patients.
In a recent trial, the drug cut the risk of death by about a third for individuals on ventilators.
Deaths of patients on oxygen were cut by a fifth, according to the BBC.
“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,” Oxford University professor Martin Landray, one of the leaders of the drug trial, told Reuters.
“There is a clear, clear benefit,” he told the BBC.
“The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about five pounds per patient. So essentially it costs 35 pounds to save a life.
“This is a drug that is globally available.”
“This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality — and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” added Peter Horby, the other leading researcher overseeing the trial.
“It is a major breakthrough,” he said.
In a statement, Horby expanded on the drug’s promise.
“This is an extremely welcome result,” he said.
“The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”
“Since the appearance of COVID-19 six months ago, the search has been on for treatments that can improve survival, particularly in the sickest patients,” Landray said in the statement.
“These preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear — dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications. COVID-19 is a global disease — it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide.”
In the drug trial, about 2,000 patients were given dexamethasone. Their results were compared more than 4,000 patients who did not get the drug.
The risk of death for people on ventilators dropped from 40 percent to 28 percent, while the risk of death for those on oxygen dropped from 25 percent to 20 percent.
Full details of the trial have yet to be published.
Landray said the drug could be given to hospital patients now, but cautioned that individuals should not stock up and take it at home.
“The first drug proven to cut deaths from COVID-19 is not some new, expensive medicine but an old, cheap-as-chips steroid,” BBC health correspondent Fergus Walsh wrote, noting that the drug has been used since the 1960s to treat rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.
“That is something to celebrate because it means patients across the world could benefit immediately. And that is why the top-line results of this trial have been rushed out – because the implications are so huge globally.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.