Researchers at Oxford University have discovered what is believed to be the first evidence of a drug that can reduce the risk of death from COVID-19 by up to one-third, a steroid known as dexamethasone.
Scientists working on the Recovery Trial found the drug could benefit patients on ventilators or oxygen, but had no effect on those who did not need help breathing.
“Based on these results, one death would be prevented by treatment of around eight ventilated patients or around 25 patients requiring oxygen alone,” researchers said in a statement.
Matt Hancock, the health secretary, tweeted: “This global first exemplifies the power of science.”
“I’m absolutely delighted that today we can announce the first successful clinical trial for a treatment for Covid-19,” he added.
The trial involved more than 11,500 patients, enrolled from more than 175 hospitals in the UK, a statement by the University of Oxford said. The drug costs about £5 per patient and is given either as a tablet or an injection.
In the trial, about 2,104 patients were chosen to receive dexamethasone 6 milligrammes once each day, either by mouth or by intravenous injection, for ten days. The participants were then compared with 4321 patients given usual treatment alone.
“Since the appearance of COVID-19 six months ago, the search has been on for treatments that can improve survival, particularly in the sickest patients,” Martin Landray, professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Oxford added in the statement. “These preliminary results from the RECOVERY trial are very clear – dexamethasone reduces the risk of death among patients with severe respiratory complications. COVID-19 is a global disease – it is fantastic that the first treatment demonstrated to reduce mortality is one that is instantly available and affordable worldwide.”
As of Thursday morning, more than 8 million coronavirus cases have been diagnosed worldwide, more than 2.1 million of which are in the U.S., the most impacted country on the planet.