A steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one-third in severely ill hospitalized patients, according to researchers in England, who announced results from a clinical trial on Tuesday.
According to the study, called the “The Recovery Trial,” the drug dexamethasone was administered either orally or through an IV.
It reportedly reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen.
The drug did not appear to help less ill patients – those who don’t need help with their breathing.
The results were described as a “major breakthrough” by scientists directing the Oxford University-led clinical trial.
Dexamethasone is a relatively cheap and globally available steroid that is commonly used to reduce inflammation in people suffering from other conditions.
The study states that a randomized group of 2,104 patients was given 6 milligrams of dexamethasone per day for 10 days, while another group of 4,321 was given standard treatment.
8.1 million: As of Tuesday morning, there have been a total of 8,149,365 confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide, resulting in more than 431,000 deaths.
“This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality, and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” said professor Peter Horby, co-lead investigator of the trial.
Scientists working on the trial suggested that the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospitals for the coronavirus. “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,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial. Per the BBC, researchers estimated that if the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the very start of the coronavirus outbreak, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved. Dexamethasone purportedly helps stop some of the damage that can occur when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off the coronavirus. The body’s overreaction is called a cytokine storm, which can be fatal.
The Recovery Trial began in March. It initially also included the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine. However, it was determined that the potential benefits of hydroxychloroquine were outweighed by the possibility of serious side effects, including heart issues.