LONDON • A cheap and widely used steroid has become the first drug shown to be able to save lives among coronavirus patients in what scientists have hailed as a “major breakthrough”.
Results of trials announced yesterday showed that dexamethasone, which is used to reduce inflammation in other diseases, lowered death rates by around a third among the most severe Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital.
The results suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the disease, said the researchers who led the trials.
“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 Oxford University’s Professor Martin Landray, who co-leads the trial.
Co-lead investigator Peter Horby said it is “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality… significantly”.
Britain will immediately start giving the steroid to patients, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said yesterday, adding that the country began stockpiling the drug when its potential first became apparent three months ago.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for Covid-19.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS