An inexpensive and widely-available steroid drug, dexamethasone, has reportedly become the first drug that has saved the lives of patients that are seriously ill with COVID-19. Scientists in the United Kingdom are touting the drug, which is effective at low doses, as a “major breakthrough” in the coronavirus pandemic.
The drug is part of the world’s largest trial looking into existing drugs and treatments to see if any of them are also effective against the coronavirus. The study reportedly found that dexamethasone, which is otherwise used to reduce inflammation in diseases like arthritis, also reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely-ill COVID-19 patients that were admitted to hospitals in the UK.
For COVID-19 patients on ventilators, the dexamethasone treatment was shown to reduce mortality by about one third, and for patients requiring only oxygen, mortality was cut by about one fifth.
Had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, the researchers have claimed. They have recommended that the drug be immediately administered as standard care in patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
The study’s preliminary results are yet to be peer-reviewed by others in the scientific community. But this hasn’t stopped the medical fraternity and officers in the UK government from sharing their views on social media.
“This is the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far,” Chris Whitty, England’s Chief Medical Officer, said on Twitterabout the findings of the UK-led clinical trial known as ‘RECOVERY’. “Significant reduction in mortality in those requiring oxygen or ventilation from a widely available, safe and well-known drug… It will save lives around the world.”
The World Health Organisation, too, took to Twitterto share their official view on the study.