A cheap and widely available drug, Dexamethasone, has been able to play a significant role in the treatment of Covid-19 patients, claimed a recent research from the United Kingdom.
According to researchers, the drug can reduce deaths by up to one third in severely ill hospitalised patients. They came up with the disclosure on Tuesday, saying elaborate findings will be released soon, reports AP.
They applied the drug on 2,104 Covid-19 patients after a random selection process and later compared them with other 4,321 patients who were receiving usual care. It was given either orally or using IV method.
After 28 days, it was found that the medicine had reduced deaths by 35 percent in patients who needed treatment with breathing machines and by 20 percent in those only needing supplemental oxygen.
The drug apparently had no impact on those who are comparatively in better physical condition.
Peter Horby, a scholar of University of Oxford and leader of the researchers’ team, called it “an extremely welcome result".
In a statement, he said 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," he said.
Nick Cammack of Wellcome, a British charity that supports science research, said even though the drug only helps in severe cases, countless lives will be saved globally. He called for Dexamethasone to be rolled out and accessed by thousands of critically ill patients around the world.
Cammack, who had played no apparent role in the study, further said that "it is highly affordable, easy to make, can be scaled up quickly and only needs a small dosage".
Steroid drugs reduce inflammation, which sometimes develops in Covid-19 patients as the immune system overreacts to fight the infection. This overreaction can prove fatal, so doctors have been testing steroids and other anti-inflammatory drugs in such patients.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises against using steroids earlier in the course of illness because they can slow the time until patients clear the virus.
Researchers estimated that the drug would prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on breathing machines and one for every 25 patients on extra oxygen alone.
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 England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland who were given either standard of care or that plus one of several treatments: dexamethasone; the HIV combo drug lopinavir-ritonavir, the antibiotic azithromycin; 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 UK and private donors including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.