A widely available drug, dexamethasone, could save the lives of patients critically ill with COVID-19, research has found.
Dexamethasone, a low-dose steroid cuts the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. The drug has been proven to reduce the risk of death significantly in COVID-19 patients on ventilation by as much as 35% and patients on oxygen by 20%, reducing the total 28-day mortality rate by 17%. According to the researchers from the University of Oxford, had the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5000 lives could have been saved.
‘This is the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far,’ said Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer. ‘Significant reduction in mortality in those requiring oxygen or ventilation from a widely available, safe and well known drug. Many thanks to those who took part and made it happen. It will save lives around the world.’
The government has taken action to secure supplies of dexamethasone in the UK, buying additional stocks ahead of time in the event of a positive trial outcome. This means there is already enough treatment for over 200,000 people from stockpiles alone.
‘I’m absolutely delighted that today we can announce the world’s first successful clinical trial for a treatment for COVID-19. This astounding breakthrough is testament to the incredible work being done by our scientists behind the scenes,’ said Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘From today the standard treatment for COVID-19 will include dexamethasone, helping save thousands of lives while we deal with this terrible virus. Guided by the science, the UK is leading the way in the global fight against coronavirus – with the best clinical trials, the best vaccine development and the best immunology research in the world.’