Study data shows that a low-cost drug called dexamethasone can reduce mortality among patients hospitalized with COVID-19, Oxford University announced Tuesday.
In the large-scale British RECOVERY trial, conducted by a team of scientists from Oxford, patients administered six milligrams of dexamethasone a day generally fared better than those who just received usual care, according to the press release.
The drug achieved a one third reduction in mortality in patients on a ventilator, while it reduced deaths by a fifth in patients just receiving oxygen. It made no difference among those who didn’t need any respiratory intervention.
Dexamethasone is a corticosteroid drug used to treat a range of diseases and conditions, including allergic reactions, anemia and brain swelling.
Oxford’s Peter Horby, one of the chief investigators for the trial, noted that it’s the first drug to show improved survival in COVID-19
“The survival benefit [of dexamethasone] 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,” Horby said.
“Dexamethasone is inexpensive, on the shelf, and can be used immediately to save lives worldwide,” he added.
According to the Oxford statement, dexamethasone could prevent about one death for every eight ventilated patients.
In a written statement, Nick Cammack, COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator Lead at the Wellcome Trust, called the finding a “major breakthrough” and said that “countless lives will be saved globally” as a result.
However, Tom Frieden, former head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cautioned against immediate optimism.
“Need to see the data. Other studies have not found this,” he wrote on Twitter.
In the release, Oxford said that it would work on publishing the full details “as soon as possible.”
Ashleigh Furlong contributed reporting.