Dexamethasone proven to be the first life-saving drug in treatment of coronavirus; scientists call it a ‘major breakthrough’
After several months of controversy with hydroxychloroquine, scientists at Oxford University have discovered a major breakthrough. Dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used steroid, has become the first drug shown to be able to save lives among Covid-19 patients in what scientists hailed as a “major breakthrough”. The cheap and widely available drug can help save the lives of patients seriously ill with coronavirus.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid, a class of steroid hormone. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the drug in 1958 when Merck & Company first manufactured the drug. Now, several manufacturers offer dexamethasone under various brand names and formulations, including Decadron, Ozurdex, Maxidex, and Baycadro.
The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, according Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial. Dexamethasone is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus. The RECOVERY trial was first launched in April as part of a randomized clinical trial to test a range of potential treatments for Covid-19, including low-dose dexamethasone and the malaria drug hydoxycholoroquine.
Professor Martin Landray said:
“This is a result that shows that if patients who have Covid-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost.”
It cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth. 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.
The results suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease, said the researchers who led the trials. The RECOVERY trial compared outcomes of around 2,100 patients who were randomly assigned to get the steroid, with those of around 4,300 patients who did not get it.
The results suggest that one death would be prevented by treatment with dexamethasone among every eight ventilated Covid-19 patients, Landray said, and one death would be prevented among every 25 Covid-19 patients that received the drug and are on oxygen. Among patients with Covid-19 who did not require respiratory support, there was no benefit from treatment with dexamethasone.
“The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients,” Horby said.