Steroid dexamethasone reduces deaths among patients with severe COVID-19: trial shows

Steroid treatment saves one third of most severe Covid-19 cases shows trial

Results of trials announced on Tuesday showed dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases, reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

Results from the Oxford University-led trial, RECOVERY, showed that the long-off-patent drug cut the risk of death by 28 - 40%.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Monday (June 15) withdrew the emergency use authorisation of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19 patients saying that the drug, which was called as "game-changer" in treatment of COVID-19, may not be effective to cure the deadly virus infection.

Among patients with COVID-19 who did not require respiratory support, there was no benefit from treatment with dexamethasone.

According to experts, this drug has been available in the United Kingdom since the outbreak began, and if used in coronavirus cases, up to five thousand patients' lives would have been saved.

The drug is now used to reduce inflammation in a number of diseases.

The body's overreaction is called "cytokine storm" and it is emphasized that it can be fatal.

Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the university's Nuffield Department of Medicine, and one of the chief investigators for the trial, described it as "an extremely welcome result". But it is important to recognise that we found no evidence of benefit for patients who did not require oxygen and we did not study patients outside the hospital setting.

Researchers estimated that the drug would prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on breathing machines and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.

Another drug called remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that appears to shorten recovery time for people with coronavirus, is already being made available on the NHS.

Dexamethasone has been used since the early 1960s to treat a wide range of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma.

There are now no approved treatments or vaccines for Covid-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 431,000 globally.

Prof Landray said, when appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, but people should not go out and buy it to take at home. That's why the topline results of this trial have been rushed out because the implications are so huge globally. "If this is legitimate, you may find. instead of say five out of 10 intensive-care COVID patients getting it, maybe everybody would get it", McGinn said.

Research is continuing on the other treatments.