Science

Dexamethasone hailed as ‘major breakthrough in COVID-19 treatment

Dexamethasone hailed as ‘major breakthrough in COVID-19 treatment”

But outside experts on Tuesday immediately embraced the top-line results.

The UK government's chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said it underlined the necessity of doing high-quality clinical trials.

Unlike dexamethasone, remdesivir is a new drug with limited supplies and a price has yet to be announced. "I think it needs to be validated, but it certainly suggests that this could be beneficial in this setting".

And that is why the top-line results of this trial have been rushed out - because the implications are so huge globally.

According to a news release, of the over 11,500 patients enrolled in the RECOVERY trial, 2,104 were randomised to receive 6mg of dexamethasone once a day (either by mouth or by intravenous injection) for ten days-and this was compared to 4,321 patients randomised to usual care alone. "These preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear - dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications", he added. It concluded that the treatment lowered the chance of death for patients on ventilators from 40 percent to 28 percent, and it lowered the chance of death for patients on oxygen from 25 to 20 percent. Both results were statistically significant.

Coronavirus patients that are now on oxygen, including ventilators, will be given dexamethasone as a treatment from today.

The study, conducted in the United Kingdom, included nearly 6,500 patients from 175 hospitals.

There was no benefit among those patients who did not require respiratory support.

"Dexamethasone is cheap, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide".

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A low-priced anti-inflammatory drug appears to reduce the risk of death in patients with COVID-19.

"This is the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far", says England's chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty on Twitter.

British researchers have been trying out a range of different coronavirus treatments since March. Some drugs are created to directly combat the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, that causes the disease. The researchers found that it is effective on patients whose immune system has gone into overdrive in response to the coronavirus infection.

It is already used for other conditions, including arthritis and asthma.

The study team believes that the steroid reduces the damage inflicted on the body by "cytokine storms" that occur in some severely ill patients.

"We have been burned before, not just during the coronavirus pandemic but even pre-COVID, with exciting results that, when we have access to the data, are not as convincing", said Kathryn Hibbert, director of the medical intensive care unit at Harvard's Massachusetts General Hospital.

The steroid, dexamethasone, a well-known anti-inflammatory drug, appeared to help patients with severe cases of the virus: It reduced deaths by a third in patients receiving ventilation, and by a fifth in patients receiving standard oxygen treatment, the scientists said.

His co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, said dexamethasone - a generic steroid widely used in other diseases to reduce inflammation - is "the only drug that's so far shown to reduce mortality, and it reduces it significantly".



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