Trial shows drug reduces coronavirus deaths by one-third among severely ill patients

A clinical trial in Great Britain has found that a cheap, widely available drug reduces deaths from coronavirus in severely ill patients on ventilators by one-third, which researchers hailed as a significant breakthrough.

The drug, a steroid called dexamethasone, was found to reduce deaths among coronavirus patients on ventilators by one-third and by one-fifth among patients receiving oxygen only. There was no benefit among patients not on ventilators or receiving oxygen.

"Dexamethasone is the first drug to be shown to improve survival in COVID-19," said Peter Horby, a professor at the University of Oxford and one of the chief investigators of the trial. "This is an extremely welcome result."

ADVERTISEMENT

"Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide," he added.

The U.K. government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, added in a statement, "This is a ground-breaking development in our fight against the disease, and the speed at which researchers have progressed finding an effective treatment is truly remarkable."

Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, wrote on Twitter that the results appear to be "very good news," though he cautioned that the researchers did not release their full data.

"One feature of COVID is that while some folks have mild disease, others get very, very sick," he added. "We think the immune response is a major component of why some folks get so sick. Dexamethasone is a steroid that blocks/mediates the immune response. It's cheap and widely available."