Story at a glance

  • Dexamethasone was used in a study led by a team from Oxford University that randomly assigned 2,104 patients to get the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients who were not given the treatment.
  • Researchers said the drug after 28 days reduced deaths by 35 percent for patients on ventilators and by 20 percent in those only needing supplemental oxygen.
  • Researchers said the drug could prevent one death for every eight patients treated while on ventilators and one for every 25 patients on supplemental oxygen.

Researchers in England said Tuesday a cheap and widely available drug has shown promise in improving the chances of survival for seriously ill COVID-19 patients, the Associated Press (AP) reports. 

It is the first known evidence that a drug can improve coronavirus survival rates.


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The low-dose steroid treatment dexamethasone was used in a study led by a team from Oxford University that randomly assigned 2,104 patients the drug and compared them with 4,321 patients who only got usual care. The drug was given orally or through an IV. 

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Researchers said after 28 days the drug reduced deaths by 35 percent for patients on ventilators and by 20 percent in those only needing supplemental oxygen. Dexamethasone did not appear to show any benefit to COVID-19 patients who were less ill. 

“This is an extremely welcome result,” Peter Horby, one of the study’s authors from Oxford, said in a statement. “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.”

Researchers said the drug could prevent 1 death for every 8 patients treated while on ventilators and 1 for every 25 on supplemental oxygen. 

Dexamethasone is used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions and appears to help stop some of the damage caused by the body’s immune system overreaction to the coronavirus.  

Researchers announced the results of the study Tuesday and are expected to publish them soon, the AP reports. 

There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus that has killed more than 437,000 people worldwide.


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Published on Jun 16, 2020