Dexamethasone is the first drug to actually reduce coronavirus-related deaths in COVID-19 patients

By Julie Mazziotta
June 16, 2020 12:25 PM
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Dexamethasone
| Credit: BERTRAND GUAY/AFP via Getty

A cheap steroid drug is the first effective treatment for the new coronavirus, COVID-19, researchers have found.

Dexamethasone, an inexpensive and widely-available steroid, helped save the lives of seriously-ill COVID-19 patients in a large, 6,000-person study conducted by researchers at the University of Oxford.

The drug helped to reduce coronavirus-related deaths in people on ventilators by one-third, and by one-fifth in people on oxygen treatments. Dexamethasone had no effect on COVID-19 patients who did not need respiratory support, the researchers said in a statement.

It is the first drug that is proven to reduce the risk of death in COVID-19 patients.

"This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality — and it reduces it significantly. It's a major breakthrough," Peter Horby, a professor at University of Oxford and a chief author of the study said, according to the BBC.

The researchers estimated that if dexamethasone had been used to treat oxygen-assisted COVID-19 patients in the U.K. from the start of the outbreak, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved.

There has been a worldwide hunt underway to find an effective treatment for COVID-19, with other options — such as hydroxychloroquine, which was heavily touted by President Donald Trump — discarded after they were found not to work.

The researchers were thrilled to find that dexamethasone was effective and inexpensive — in the U.K., the prescribed 10 doses of the steroid totals £35.

“COVID-19 is a global disease — it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide,” Martin Landray, also a professor at Oxford and a chief author of the study, said in the statement.

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