A low-dose steroid treatment of dexamethasone can reduce the risk of COVID-19 deaths in severe cases, U.K. experts say.
Hailing the results of the Recovery Trial, the world’s biggest randomised trial for COVID-19 therapies, the World Health Organisation (WHO) welcomed the initial clinical trial results and congratulated the U.K. government and the researchers.
“This is the first treatment to be shown to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 requiring oxygen or ventilator support,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
The study showed that the drug, which is used to reduce inflammation in diseases such as arthritis, cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.
Had the drug been used to treat patients from the beginning of the pandemic, U.K. could have avoided up to 5,000 deaths, researchers predict.
“For less than 50 pounds ($63), you can treat eight patients and save a life,” Martin Landray, co-lead of the trial said in an online briefing.
Peter Horby, another co-lead investigator, called dexamethasone a “major breakthrough.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called is a reason to celebrate “a remarkable British scientific achievement” and said they would be making their stockpile of 200,000 courses of the drug available to hospitals soon.
The U.K. is also preparing to source more drugs in case of a second wave of infections.