.A low-cost steroid saves the lives of one third of those with most serious coronavirus symptoms, researchers in the UK found, in what has been described as a “groundbreaking development” in the fight against Covid-19.
Scientists led by a team from the University of Oxford gave 2,104 severely ill patients 6mg of the drug dexamethasone daily and compared the results with more than 4,000 who did not receive it.
Among patients who could breathe only with the help of a ventilator the drug reduced deaths by 35 per cent, and reduced deaths by one fifth for those receiving oxygen, trial results showed.
There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support.
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at Oxford and one of the chief investigators for the trial, said dexamethasone was the first drug shown to improve survival from Covid-19.
“This is an extremely welcome result,” he said.
“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. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.”b
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the drug would be available in the UK immediately.
The UK government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said it underlined the necessity of doing high-quality clinical trials.
“This is a groundbreaking development in our fight against the disease, and the speed at which researchers have progressed finding an effective treatment is truly remarkable,” he said.
The news came as researchers at Imperial College London began human trials of a new coronavirus vaccine with 300 health participants.
If successful and shown to be safe the vaccine could be tested on around 6,000 volunteers later this year.