A cheap and widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.
The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say.
The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus.
It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.
Had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.
And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.
The results, described as a “major breakthrough” by scientists leading the UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY, 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.
“There is a clear, clear benefit,” he said. “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.”
His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone – a generic steroid widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation – is “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly.”
“It is a major breakthrough,” he said.
- There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 431,000 globally