Giving low doses of the generic steroid drug dexamethasone to Covid-19 patients admitted to hospital reduced death rates by around a third among those with the most severe cases of infection, study revealed on Tuesday.
The drug, according to BBC News is part of the world’s biggest existing trial treatments for the novel coronavirus.
According to the research, “the drug cut the risk of death by a third for patients on ventilators. For those on oxygen, it cut deaths by a fifth.” Hence being referred to as the pandemic’s first ‘lifesaving drug’.
Additionally, the results described as a major breakthrough by scientists leading the United Kingdom-led clinical trial known as RECOVERY, suggest the drug should immediately become standard care in patients treated in hospital with the pandemic disease.
And it could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high numbers of Covid-19 patients.
Had the drug been used to treat patients in the UK from the start of the pandemic, up to 5,000 lives could have been saved, researchers say.
According to the study led by a team from Oxford University, around 2,000 hospital patients were given dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who did not receive the drug.
The study revealed that for patients on ventilators, it cut the risk of death from 40% to 28%, while patients who needed oxygen, it cut the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
Prof Peter Horby, Chief investigator is quoted saying "This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality - and it reduces it significantly. It's a major breakthrough."
“This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor who is co-leading the trial.
However, the drug has so far not proven to help people with milder symptoms of coronavirus - those who don't need help with their breathing.
Other drugs which are currently under the Recovery Trial include the famous malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which was however dismissed after concerns emerged that it increases fatalities and heart problems.
While, remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that appears to shorten recovery time for people with coronavirus, is already being made available on the UK National Health Service (NHS) after it was authorized by the United States.
There are currently no approved treatments or vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the new coronavirus which has killed more than 430,000 globally.