Breakthrough: cheap steroid turns out can save COVID-patients’ lives, scientists find

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A widely available and inexpensive steroid, called dexamethasone, is being touted as the first proven drug to reduce the chances of coronavirus-related deaths in critical patients, significantly. Scientists are calling the drug a “major breakthrough.”

Oxford University Scientists who lead the research announced on Tuesday, that a 6k-patient trial in Britain has found the already widely-used steroid can come life-savingly handy to treat patients in critical condition with the novel coronavirus. The medical community is calling it the first proven drug to reduce COVID-related deaths.

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“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result. The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become the standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide,” scientists write in a statement.

Dexamethasone – a steroid widely used to treat inflammatory diseases like arthritis, has been found to help patients with critical symptoms of COVID-19, according to media reports. As soon as the results were out the British Government immediately authorized the application of the drug n patients like the ones who did well under the test.

However, independent experts called for deeper knowledge on the functional route of dexamethasone, Associated Press reports. Top infectious disease expert of the US, Dr. Anthony Fauci told the findings as a “significant improvements” in the current options available to treat the virus.

Major Breakthrough

Experts will now further probe into the drug’s effect and note how exactly it works. Preliminary observations by experts found the drug, instead of directly attacking the virus, appeared to tamp down the ‘cytokine storm’ which is the immune system’s overactive inflammatory response to the virus in some patients.

The trial called the RECOVERY trial was conducted on 2,100 patients who were randomly given the drug at regular intervals, versus the 4,300 patients who were not given the steroid.

According to reports, the steroid Dexamethasone prevented mortality in COVID-patients under ventilation by a third, in patients receiving normal oxygen treatments by a fifth, and no benefit of the drug on patients who did not need respiratory support.

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The researchers will publish the trial in a peer-reviewed journal as soon as possible. “Given the public health importance of these results, we are now working to publish the full details as soon as possible,” the statement reads.

Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial told in an online briefing that that for just 50 pounds ($63) the drug can treat eight patients and save a life (i.e. one mortality potentially prevented by giving the drug to eight patients) Reuters reports. Peter Horby, co-lead investigator of the study called the finding a “major breakthrough.”

“The only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly,” Horby told.

Britain has reportedly started using the drug as a standard in COVID-19 patients starting Tuesday. The British government had already guessed the sings of the drug’s efficacy and has by now stockpiled more than 200,000 doses, The New York Times notes.