Steroidal Drug Hailed as “Major Breakthrough” By Scientists

LONDON — A steroid drug used to treat allergic reactions and reduces inflammation in other diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and asthma has become the first drug shown to be able to save lives among COVID-19 patients in what scientists said is a “major breakthrough” in the coronavirus pandemic.


Trial results announced on Tuesday, June 16, that dexamethasone, a cheap and widely used drug, has been found to reduce the risk deaths in serious coronavirus cases by a third. Researchers led by a team from the University of Oxford administered the steroidal drug to more that 2,000 severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to hospital.

As demonstrated by the preliminary results, dexamethasone reduced deaths by 35 percent among those who could only breathe with the help of a ventilator, and by one-fifth in patients receiving oxygen only. Daily doses of the steroid can prevent one in eight ventilated patient deaths and save one out of 25 patients requiring oxygen alone, the researchers said.

“Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19. This is an extremely welcome result.”

Peter horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases in the nuffield department of medicine, university of oxford

According to the researchers, the results suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients with severe cases of the pandemic disease.

The government has already stockpiled 200,000 courses of the treatment back in March after preliminary trials demonstrated its potential. According to, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said patients would start to receive the drug immediately as state-run health service’s standard hospital treatment for COVID-19 would include the drug.

COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Lead, Nick Cammack, said at the Wellcome Trust health charity that “this is a major breakthrough: dexamethasone is the first and only drug that has made a significant difference in patient mortality for COVID-19. Potentially preventing one death in every eight ventilated patients would be remarkable.”

Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor co-leading the trial, known as the RECOVERY trial also said in the Reuters that “this is a (trial) result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost.”

According to Reuters, there are no currently approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 431,000 people globally.

“This is the most important trial result for COVID-19 so far. Significant reduction in mortality in those requiring oxygen or ventilation from a widely available, safe and well known drug. It will save lives around the world”

chris witty, englands’ chief medical officer

© Agence France-Presse, Reuters

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