Dexamethasone: Man says it was ‘touch and go’ before he got trial drug to treat COVID-19

A man who was part of the trial that discovered a steroid could treat coronavirus patients has said his survival was “touch and go” before getting the drug.

Pete Herring was one of thousands who took part in the trials of dexamethasone, which has been shown to reduce deaths among people seriously ill with COVID-19.

The development has been hailed as a significant breakthrough, with the University of Oxford academic who led the trial saying “what we saw was really quite remarkable”.

Mr Herring is now back home after recovering from coronavirus

Mr Herring, 69, told Sky News his condition got so bad that doctors at Addenbrooke’s Hospital had been discussing placing him into an induced coma if the trial drug had not been effective.

He said: “It was touch and go at one point. I was really quite ill.

“I had various flu-like symptoms, but it was the difficulty breathing that was the worst.

“I was admitted to hospital on 28 April and moved to intensive care within an hour.

“I was on oxygen all the time I was there and it got to the point where they were talking about putting me into an induced coma.

“I knew I was on the trial, but didn’t know at the time if I’d been given the drug or just the placebo.

“My recovery was really a gradual thing. It wasn’t just like someone flicked a switch and I was okay.”

He said doctors had also given him a CPAP breathing mask, a device normally used as therapy for sleep apnea syndrome.

“It may be that it was some combination of that and the drug,” he said.

“I’m not sure how much of an idea anyone really had as to how much effect each had.”

After being discharged from hospital on 6 May, he said he only learned he had been given the trial drug weeks later.

“I’m 100% grateful that I was part of the trial and it’s wonderful news that this drug seems to work,” he said.

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“I’ve since learned it’s actually quite cheap as drugs go, meaning it will be available to developing countries too, which is also great to know.”

Mr Herring, from Ely, Cambridgeshire, said his time in hospital had been challenging for his family, including his son, daughter, two grandchildren and a partner he lives with.

“My partner has been a rock but it was horrendous for all my family,” he said.

The drug was found to reduce death rates by around 35% for patients on ventilators, and by about 20% for those needing oxygen.

Professor Peter Horby, who led the trial of the drug, told Tuesday’s Downing Street briefing it saves “one in 8” patients in intensive care with COVID-19.

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