A breakthrough - cheap steroid saves lives among COVID-19 patients

A breakthrough - cheap steroid saves lives among COVID-19 patients

A cheap and widely available generic drug called dexamethasone can help save the lives of patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus, a new clinical trial shows.


Giving low doses of dexamethasone to patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection, show the results of the UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY.


Dexamethasone - a major breaktrough


The results were described as a “major breakthrough” by scientists.


The data suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospital with the pandemic disease, the researchers said.


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.


Dexamethasone Is a generic steroid widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation. It is the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly, comments the co-lead investigator, Peter Horby.


For every 8 patients treated on ventilators, you could save one life


In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug.

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.


Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray says the findings suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, you could save one life.


For those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug.


A drug globally available


There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available.” Commented prof Martin Landray. In his opinion,  when appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, but people should not go out and buy it to take at home.


Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus - those who don't need help with their breathing.