Dexamethasone emerges as 1st life saving low-cost drug for covid- 19: Oxford study

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The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, UK experts say.


Oxford researchers in UK say they have the first evidence that a drug can improve COVID-19 survival rate and that's a steroid called dexamethasone reduced deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalised patients.

The drug is part of  the world's biggest testing trial for existing treatment to see if they also work for coronavirus.

It 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 had been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.

And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.

About 19 out of 20 patients with coronavirus recover without being admitted to hospital. Of those who are admitted to hospital, most also recover, but some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation. These are the high-risk patients whom dexamethasone appears to help.

The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and it appears that it helps stop some of the damage that can happen when the body's immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off coronavirus.

The body's over-reaction is called a cytokine storm and it can be deadly.

In the trial, led by a team from Oxford University, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug.

For patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.

Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby said:

"This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly. It's a major breakthrough."
 

Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray says the findings suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, you could save one life.

The authors say,

"The survival benefit is clear/large in sick patients who require oxygen, so it should now become standard of care in these patients. Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide".

For those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug.

Investigators mentioned that 

"There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of dexamethasone and it costs about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life. This is a drug that is globally available."

Prof Landray said, when appropriate, hospital patients should now be given it without delay, but people should not go out and buy it to take at home.

Dexamethasone does not appear to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus - those who don't need help with their breathing.

Dr.  Anoop Mishra, a Padma Shri Awardee and  Chairman of Fortis CDOC Hospital for Diabetes & Allied Sciences said

" This would be boon to the patients who are sick enough to require oxygen or ventilator. However, same cannot be said for patients who have mild or moderate symptoms not requiring oxygenation".

The Recovery Trial has been running since March. It included the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine which has subsequently been ditched amid concerns that it increases fatalities and heart problems.


 



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