Low-dose dexamethasone steroid therapy can reduce the mortality of coronavirus patients by up to one-third. This was announced by the British Minister for Health, Matt Hancock, who spoke of the success of the first clinical trial for the treatment against Covid-19.
Oxford University said in a statement that the drug, part of the world’s largest experiment to assess the effectiveness of existing treatments to deal with the virus, “decreased the risk of death by one-third for mechanically ventilated patients, while for those who were on oxygen, it reduced deaths by a fifth”.
According to the researchers, if dexamethasose, a cheap and worldwide available medicine, had been used to treat hospitalised patients with severe respiratory complications in the UK since the beginning of the epidemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved.
The discovery came during a trial which began in March. “This world first demonstrates the power of science,” Hancock said in a post on Twitter, in which he took the opportunity to thank the research team, who explained that the cheap treatment could be beneficial for the poorest countries with a high number of patients with Covid-19.
The trial involved 11,500 patients from more than 175 NHS hospitals in the national health system, across the UK.
Peter Horby, professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, and one of the main investigators of the trial, stated that “dexamethasone is the first drug that has been shown to improve survival in the case of Covid-19 “and added that” the survival benefit is clear in those patients who are sick enough to require oxygen treatment, so dexamethasone should now become the standard of care in these patients”.
Horby further explained that “Dexamethasone is inexpensive, widely available, and can be used immediately to save lives around the world.”
Martin Landray, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Nuffield Department of Public Health said: “It is great that the first treatment that has been shown to reduce mortality is instantly available and affordable worldwide.”
The drug, already used to reduce inflammation in a variety of conditions, “appears to help stop some of the damage that occurs when the immune system becomes overloaded while trying to fight the coronavirus,” he explained, since “the overreaction of the body, called a cytokine storm, can be deadly.”
Added to this good news is the announcement by the British Government that the first human trials of a new coronavirus vaccine, developed by researchers at Imperial College London and funded by the Government, will begin this week.
Meanwhile, engineers from University College London (UCL) and Mercedes AMG-HPP (Formula 1), in collaboration with doctors from the intensive care units of University College London hospitals, have developed the UCL Ventura, a new respiratory assistance unit to assist Covid-19 patients with serious respiratory difficulties. The design and manufacturing instructions are available to manufacturers free of charge to support the global response to the disease, and have already been downloaded in more than 105 countries, including Spain.
WHO welcomes progress with Dexamethasone use
The World Health Organization (WHO) has welcomed the progress made in the United Kingdom with the use of dexamethasone, and congratulated the University from Oxford and the British Government for the find. ” It is the first treatment that has been shown to be able to reduce mortality in patients with COVID-19 who required oxygen or ventilation,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.