A Low-Cost Steroid Shows Promise for Treating COVID-19

Katie Ramirez
June 17, 2020

"The results - from a preliminary data standpoint - demonstrate for the first time that in seriously ill patients with COVID-19, a readily available low-dose steroid called dexamethazone (which is, by the way, inexpensive) can have a positive impact" in reducing the mortality rate among "the most seriously ill patients in the hospital". Patients were separated based on the severity of the care required, ranging from not receiving respiratory intervention (13%), requiring oxygen (25%) or full ventilation (41%).

His call was echoed by Johnson who said that dexamethasone is providing the "first chink of light" and igniting hope that treatments could soon come online "that can make a big difference to mortality rates".

"Dexamethasone is low-cost, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide".

During the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone.

If the drug had been used to treat patients in the United Kingdom from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved in the country alone the researchers said, adding that its use could be highly beneficial now in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

Lead researcher Professor Martin Landray said that one life could be saved for every eight patients on a ventilator or every 20-25 on oxygen, stating there is a "clear, clear benefit". "This is an extremely welcome result", said Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at Oxford University and one of the chief investigators for the trial.

"We have been burned before, not just during the coronavirus pandemic but even pre-COVID, with exciting results that, when we have access to the data, are not as convincing", said Kathryn Hibbert, director of the medical intensive care unit at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital.

"This global first exemplifies the power of science", Matt Hancock, the U.K.'s health secretary, tweeted.

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The drug is already being made available, but Remdesivir is far more expensive than dexamethasone.

And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

Medical experts said that further study was needed to determine precisely how the steroid helped patients but that it appeared to reduce damage to lung tissue. "Steroids suppress immune system". "It's a major breakthrough".

There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support.

The hydroxychloroquine arm was halted earlier this month after Horby and Landray said results showed it was "useless" at treating Covid-19 patients.

"This is the dream", because the drug has been used for decades for other conditions, said Cammack, who had no role in the study. "This is a drug that is globally available".

The study enrolled more than 11,000 patients in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who were given either standard care or that plus one of several treatments: dexamethasone; hydroxychloroquine; the HIV combo drug lopinavir-ritonavir; the antibiotic azithromycin; the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab; or plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 that contains antibodies to fight the virus.

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