An affordable and widely available drug has been proven to help save the lives of patients seriously ill with Corona virus.
A low-dose steroid treatment Dexamethasone is a major breakthrough in the fight against the deadly virus, say UK experts. Dexamethasone, which is part of the world’s biggest trial testing existing treatments to see if they also work for Corona Virus.
It reduces the risk of death by a third for patients already on critical conditions mostly those already placed on ventilators. And for those on oxygen, it reduces deaths by a fifth.
Researchers say that up to 5,000 lives would have been saved if the drug had been used to treat patients in the UK from the beginning of the pandemic. The treatment could be of huge benefit in poorer countries with high/growing numbers of Covid-19 patients, as it is a cost efficient treat.
About 19 out of 20 patients diagnosed with covid-19 recover without getting admitted to hospital. Whereas most of those already admitted in the hospital recovers, although some may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation. These are the high-risk patients whom Dexamethasone appears to help.
The drug is already used to reduce inflammation in a range of other conditions, and it appears that it helps stop some of the damage that can happen when the body’s immune system goes into overdrive as it tries to fight off Corona Virus.
The body’s over-reaction is called a cytokine storm, which according to medical practitioner is seen to be deadly.
Reports from the trial team, led by Oxford University researchers, about 2,000 hospital patients were given Dexamethasone and were compared with more than 4,000 who were not given the drug.
For patients on ventilators, it reduces the risk of death from 40% to 28%. For patients needing oxygen, it reduces the risk of death from 25% to 20%.
According to the Chief investigator Prof Peter Horby “This is the only drug so far that has been shown to reduce mortality and it reduces it significantly. This is a major breakthrough for the world.”
Lead researcher Prof Martin Landray says the findings suggest that for every eight patients treated on ventilators, there is a high possibility of saving a life. While for those patients treated with oxygen, you save one life for approximately every 20-25 treated with the drug.
“There is a clear, clear benefit. The treatment is up to 10 days of Dexamethasone at an average cost of about £5 per patient. So essentially it costs £35 to save a life, and is globally available”.
Prof Landray also said, hospital patients can now be treated using Dexamethasone without delay; however, people should not go out and buy it to take at home. Because Dexamethasone can only be used to treat critical cases of mostly those who have difficulty in breathing and not for people with milder symptoms of Corona Virus.
The Recovery Trial has been running since March. It included the malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine which has subsequently been dropped amid concerns that it increases heart problems and fatalities.
Another drug called remdesivir, an antiviral treatment that appears to shorten recovery time for people with Corona Virus, is already being made available on the NHS.
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