UK scientists have had a major breakthrough with dexamethasone, it has been reported today. Cheap and widely available, the dexamethasone drug is said to help save the lives of patients who are seriously ill with Coronavirus. The low-dose steroid treatment is a major breakthrough against the deadly virus, say experts, cutting the risk of death by a third for people on ventilators, and for those on oxygen by a fifth.
The drug is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. According to research, the drug could have saved up to 5,000 lives if it was used to treat patients from the start of the outbreak.
Dexamethasone is used already to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and it has now been revealed that it can help when the immune system goes into overdrive to protect the body when fighting off Coronavirus.
Scientists have concluded that for patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, the risk of death was reduced from 25% to 20%.
Patients who need a ventilator, also known as ‘high-risk’ patients, are the patients that dexamethasone has helped so far. Led by an Oxford University team, the trial included around 2,000 hospital patients, who were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 patients who did not receive the drug.
Chief investigator Professor Peter Horby said: “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough.”
Lead researcher Professor Martin Landray has said for every eight people you treat on ventilators you could save one life. And for patients on oxygen, you could save one in every 20-25 with the drug.
“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.”