KUALA LUMPUR, June 17— Dexamethasone, a widely available and affordable drug, has been proven to save the lives of seriously sick Covid-19 patients, according to the world’s largest clinical trial on coronavirus treatments.
BBC reported United Kingdom (UK) experts claiming the low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a “major breakthrough” in the fight against the deadly coronavirus.
The press release on the Recovery trial, which repurposes existing treatments for Covid-19, reported that the steroid treatment reduces the risk of death by one-third for Covid-19 patients on ventilators, and cuts death rates by one-fifth for those requiring oxygen.
The dexamethasone trial, led by a team from Oxford University, enrolled about 2,000 hospital patients that were given dexamethasone and compared with more than 4,000 who were not given the steroid treatment.
Results from the study showed that the risk of death for patients on ventilators were cut from 40 per cent to 28 per cent with dexamethasone, and for those on oxygen, the risk of death was cut from 25 per cent to 20 per cent with dexamethasone.
“This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality – and it reduces it significantly. It’s a major breakthrough,” the study chief investigator Prof Peter Horby reportedly said.
The study researchers also reportedly claimed that up to 5,000 lives could have been saved had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the findings from this break-through study is a huge benefit for poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was also reported saying that this breakthrough was a genuine case to celebrate “a remarkable British scientific achievement”, adding: “We have taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak.”
BBC also cited Chief Medical Officer for England Prof Chris Whitty pointing out that about 19 out of 20 patients with the novel coronavirus recover without hospital admission, and of those admitted into the hospital, most recover but certain patients may require oxygen support and mechanical ventilation, and it is in these high-risk patients where dexamethasone can play a helpful role.
Dexamethasone has been used since the early 1960s as an anti-inflammatory drug in a variety of other conditions, including arthritis, asthma, and some skin diseases, but it also appears to be helpful in halting some of the damage that can occur when one’s immune system goes haywire in an immune system overreaction, termed a cytokine storm, that can be deadly while trying to fight off the novel coronavirus.