Giving low doses of the generic steroid drug dexamethasone to patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection, trial data showed on Tuesday.
The results, described as a “major breakthrough” by scientists leading the UK-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospital with the pandemic disease, the researchers 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,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial.
His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone – a generic steroid widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation – is “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly.”
“It is a major breakthrough,” he said.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 431,000 globally.