Common steroid can curb coronavirus deaths: British scientists


Low doses of the common steroid dexamethasone can help cut the risk of death in serious cases of the COVID-19 infection, British experts said Tuesday in what they called “a major breakthrough”.

The dexamethasone discovery came as part of RECOVERY (Randomised Evaluation of COVID-19 Therapy) of Oxford University, which the BBC described as “the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for coronavirus”.

The dexamethasone treatment cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators and by a fifth on those on oxygen.

The drug is used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and the British researchers say it helps stop some of the damage that happens when a person’s immune system tries to fight off the novel coronavirus.

“This is a 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,” Martin Landray, Oxford University professor and co-lead of the trial, was quoted as saying.

Landray’s co-lead investigator, Peter Horby, was quoted as saying that dexamethasone was “the only drug that’s so far shown to reduce mortality — and it reduces it significantly”.

Atul Gawande, best-selling author and Indian-American surgeon, sounded a note of caution.

“It will be great news if dexamethasone, a cheap steroid, really does cut deaths by 1/3 in ventilated patients with COVID19, but after all the retractions and walk backs, it is unacceptable to tout study results by press release without releasing the paper,” Gawande tweeted.

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