Drugs

Steroid Reportedly Reduces Deaths In Coronavirus Patients With Severe Cases

A new, large study shows that a cheap and widely available steroid drug could help reduce the risk of death for patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Health experts and officials expect the “ground-breaking” effort to significantly help in the fight against the novel coronavirus. 

The drug dexamethasone is known for helping manage various conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and some forms of cancer. In the latest trial, it also appeared effective to protect some patients with severe coronavirus infections.

Dexamethasone helped reduce deaths by a third in patients on ventilators. The steroid treatment also cut the risk of death by a fifth for patients on oxygen support.

Researchers tested the effects of dexamethasone on 2,104 coronavirus patients. The participants received six milligrams of the drug once a day either orally or by intravenous injection, STAT reported Tuesday.

The team then compared the dexamethasone group’s health with 4,321 other patients that took the usual care for COVID-19 cases. By the end of the trial, patients on ventilator and provided with the drug appeared 35 percent less likely to die from the disease. 
 
Those who needed oxygen support and took dexamethasone at the same time had 20 percent lower death rates. Researchers said both results were statistically significant.

However, the steroid drug did not provide any benefit to patients who didn’t require any oxygen support. 

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19,” Peter Horby, co-lead researcher and a professor in the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”

He suggested that the drug should become the new standard treatment for COVID-19 patients who need oxygen. The researchers have yet to publish the study but other health experts already expressed confidence in the results. 

Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser of the U.K. government, described the findings as “tremendous news” and “a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease.”

Scott Gottlieb, a former commissioner at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said the study needs to be validated. But it provides “a very positive finding” that dexamethasone “could be beneficial” in the fight against COVID-19.

Pills Sample of white round pills. Marco Verch/flickr

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