Coronavirus | Dexamethasone reduces deaths from COVID-19, say researchers in U.K.

The drug was given either orally or through an IV.

June 16, 2020 06:41 pm | Updated June 18, 2020 03:09 pm IST - Oxford

A pharmacist holds a box of dexamethasone tablets at a shop in London on June 16, 2020.

A pharmacist holds a box of dexamethasone tablets at a shop in London on June 16, 2020.

Researchers in the U.K. say they have the first evidence that a drug can improve COVID-19 survival: A steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalised patients.

Also read: Coronavirus | Avoid hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients with severe disease, says Health Ministry protocol

Results were announced on Tuesday and researchers said they would publish them soon. The study is a large, strict test that randomly assigned 2,104 patients to get the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients getting only usual care.

 

The drug was given either orally or through an IV. It reduced deaths by 35% in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20% in those only needing supplemental oxygen. It did not appear to help less ill patients.

This is an extremely welcome result, one study leader, Peter Horby of the University of Oxford, said in a statement. “The survival benefit is clear and large in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide.

Also read: Hydroxychloroquine does not reduce mortality, RECOVERY trial finds

This is the same study that earlier this month showed the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was not working against the coronavirus. The study enrolled more than 11,000 patients in the U.K., Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who were given either standard of care or that plus one of several treatments: the HIV combo drug lopinavir-ritonavir, the antibiotic azithromycin; the steroid dexamethasone, the anti-inflammatory drug tocilizumab, or plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 that contains antibodies to fight the virus.

Research is continuing on the other treatments. The research is funded by government health agencies in the United Kingdom and private donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.