Dexamethasone, low cost steroid drug can reduce COVID-19 mortality
Hailing it is a ‘major breakthrough’, researchers claim that this medicine reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.
UK scientists have found that Dexamethasone, a low-cost and widely used steroid medicine used to reduce inflammation in other diseases such as arthritis is able to save the lives of COVID-19 patients. Hailing it as a “major breakthrough”, scientists announced trials results which revealed that this drug reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.
“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.
The preliminary results, which have not been peer-reviewed, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease, said the researchers who led the trials.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, stating that the drug had been approved for use in the state-run health service, has introduced export restrictions and 200,000 courses of the treatment had been stockpiled.
No treatment for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which has killed more than 431,000 people globally, has been shown to reduce the mortality of the disease, although Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir shortened the recovery time for hospital patients.
“This blows remdesivir out of the water in terms of the effect size and the kind of effect,” said Dr Mark Wurfel, professor of medicine at the University of Washington.
Wurfel cautioned that it is important that the data be released and reviewed, “but this magnitude of improvement in mortality for a critically ill population is about the largest effect size that we’ve ever seen,” he said.
The RECOVERY trial compared outcomes of around 2,100 patients who were randomly assigned to get the steroid, with those of around 4,300 patients who did not get it.
Among patients with COVID-19 who did not require respiratory support, there was no benefit from treatment with dexamethasone.