Identifying treatments for COVID-19 is a top priority among health researchers. The BBC reports that a recent trial signals real promise for a readily available drug to reduce mortality among seriously ill coronavirus patients. It’s called dexamethasone, and it could reduce deaths for patients on ventilators by as much as one-third. But health experts have cautioned that expectations should be tempered until the full study is released.
The trial was led by a team of researchers from Oxford University as part of the RECOVERY initiative, a national series of clinical trials examining the COVID-19 treatment benefits of drugs currently on the market. In a statement [PDF], chief investigators Peter Horby and Martin Landray said that the randomized dexamethasone trial involved 6425 patients hospitalized for coronavirus symptoms. Of those, 2104 were given the inexpensive steroid medication, which has been in use since the 1960s for rheumatoid arthritis and asthma. The drug was administered at 6 mg daily either intravenously or orally. The remaining 4321 patients received standard care.
For patients on ventilators, the drug cut the risk of death from 40 percent to 28 percent. For patients needing oxygen, the risk of death was lowered from 25 percent to 20 percent.