'Cheap' steroid may cut COVID deaths by one-third

Henrietta Strickland
June 16, 2020

Coronavirus Drug Dexamethasone: In a major breakthrough in Covid-19 treatment, scientists in United Kingdom have claimed that the generic steroid drug dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalised patients.

Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid medication that's used to reduce inflammation.

A steroid called dexamethasone reduced the death rate among hospitalized patients with severe COVID-19 infections in a large clinical trial, United Kingdom researchers announced today (June 16).

The steroid showed the most benefit in patients who required oxygen, either through ventilation or less-invasive methods, but did not show any benefit for patients who did not require oxygen, Stat News reported.

The steroid, dexamethasone, a well-known anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to help patients with severe cases of the virus: It reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving standard oxygen treatment, the scientists said.

Martin Landray, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Oxford University and another of the chief investigators, said the results of the trial were very clear: "Dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications".

Matt Hancock, Britain's health secretary, said doctors in the country's National Health Service would begin using the steroid as the standard treatment for hospitalized coronavirus patients Tuesday afternoon. The results are a part of UK-based RECOVERY trial, one of the world's largest randomised trial of drugs to treat COVID-19 patients.

In cases of inflammation, sometimes the immune system becomes overactive leading to damage of the body's tissues, steroids such as dexamethasone help block the immune system's response to inflammation.

In a news release dated 16 June, the researchers said that a total of 2,104 patients were randomly selected to receive 6 mg dose of dexamethasone once daily for ten days either through IV or orally.

What is Dexamethasone? It is a low-priced steroid that is available widely, including in India.

Dexamethasone tablets were added to the government's list of medicines that can not be exported from the United Kingdom or hoarded on 24 April 2020, and other forms of the drug, including all oral solutions and solutions for injection, were added on 16 June 2020.

"This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly". Their outcomes were compared to another 4,300 patients who received the usual care. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life.

"Dexamethasone must now be rolled out and accessed by thousands of critically ill patients around the world", said Cammack, who had no role in the study. But some health experts are warning the public to interpret the results with caution-especially in light of a recent scandal in which two prominent medical journals, the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine, had to retract high-profile studies on potential COVID-19 treatments due to suspect data.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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