Steroid drug: A 'breakthrough' in the fight against coronavirus?

Modesto Morganelli
Giugno 17, 2020

Trial results announced on Sunday from Oxford University showed that the widely used drug reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill coronavirus patients.

Researchers estimated that dexamethasone would prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on ventilators and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.

The study involved 2,104 patients taking six milligrams of the drug once a day while 4,321 patients received their normal care. "This is an extremely welcome result", said Peter Horby, professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford.

Researchers found that the affordable drug, a steroid called dexamethasone, can reduce deaths among severely ill patients. Like Medford, he said that more trials will be needed, but emphasized that because dexamethazone is cheap, it can be used in developing countries, which would not be the case for other potential pharmaceutical treatments. Dexamethasone cut the risk of death for patients on ventilator from 40% to 28%, and for those on oxygen support, from 25% to 20%.

"I am not saying dexamethasone is for everyone", Ellerin added, "but right now we need to strongly consider it for patients who are severely or critically ill from COVID-19".

For those receiving the new treatment, the mortality rate dropped to less than 30 percent.

On Tuesday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the UK already has 200,000 dexamethasone courses "ready to go".

"From today the standard treatment for COVID-19 will include dexamethasone, helping save thousands of lives while we deal with this awful virus".

The findings come from the University of Oxford's RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVid-19 thERapY) trial, which has carried out a range of randomized clinical trials of potential treatments for Covid-19 on over 11,500 patients from over 175 hospitals in the UK.

Countries like India can have access to the generic drug to treat Covid-19 patients easily.

It's not the first time during the coronavirus pandemic - which has killed 438,000 people worldwide - that a drug has been touted as a treatment for COVID-19, famously by the U.S. President Donald Trump, who controversially tweeted that he was taking the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. "This is EXACTLY what we need, instead of a $1000 drug like remdesivir that is just marginally effective for shortening illness but not yet fully proven for mortality".

A number of existing drugs have been trialled as a treatment against the novel coronavirus, with mixed results.

However other medical professionals urged people to exercise caution, after previous studies published in renowned medical journals had to be retracted.

New data released Monday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that COVID-19 leads to "severe outcomes in older adults and those with underlying health conditions" such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease. The results didn't show improvement in those with a milder form of the disease. "If this is legitimate, you may find. instead of say five out of 10 intensive-care COVID patients getting it, maybe everybody would get it", McGinn said.

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